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February 17, 2009

Clinton launches first overseas trip to 'indispensable' Asia

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched her Asia tour in Japan Monday calling US-Pacific ties "indispensable" for curbing problems like climate change, the global financial crisis and nuclear weapons, reported AFP.

"I have chosen Asia on my first trip as secretary of state to convey that America's relationships across the Pacific are indispensable to addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century," she said.

Clinton was set to meet Japanese leaders on Tuesday and the following day travel on to Indonesia, followed by South Korea and finally China, a rising geopolitical and economic power with which the United States wants to partner.

In her talks with Japan's leaders and citizens, she said, "we will be looking for ways to collaborate on issues that go beyond just our mutual concerns to really addressing the global concerns."

Clinton said "the bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan is a cornerstone in our efforts around the world", adding that Washington and Tokyo needed to work together to address the global financial crisis.

During her visit, Clinton was expected to arrange a date in March for US President Barack Obama and Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso to meet for the first time, Japan's Jiji Press reported.

In Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to showcase the country's stability during Clinton’s visit Wednesday, which include a visit to Asean Secretariat.

Jakarta is also eager to highlight how the world's most populous Muslim nation has remained predominantly moderate.

The United States is Indonesia's second-biggest export destination after Japan, but Jakarta is concerned over a slide in exports of commodities such as palm oil, rubber and nickel to developed economies.

A number of major US resource firms such as Newmont and Chevron also operate in Indonesia and Jakarta wants to attract more investment.

Jakarta and Washington have cooperated in the fight against Islamic militants, but Indonesia also wants to modernise its poorly equipped military.

Indonesia wants a bigger role in world affairs, notably in the Middle East. It has friendly ties with countries such as North Korea and Iran, and has previously sought ways to mediate in disputes. It may look to leverage off this.

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