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Hillary Clinton: 'We Are Ready to Listen' to Asia

Sec. Clinton makes her first major foreign policy speech at the Asia Society, February 13, 2009 (Bill Swersey/Asia Society)

Sec. Clinton makes her first major foreign policy speech at the Asia Society, February 13, 2009 (Bill Swersey/Asia Society)

NEW YORK, February 13, 2009 - The Obama administration will focus on strengthening U.S. ties with Asia, said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during her address to the Asia Society in New York.

In her first major foreign policy speech, made on the eve of a four-nation tour of Asia, with visits to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and China, Secretary Clinton said that the U.S. will resume mid-level military-to-military discussions with China. The talks were suspended by Beijing last year after U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

"It is in our interest to work harder to build on areas of common concern and shared opportunities," said Clinton. "Even with our differences, the United States will remain committed to pursuing a positive relationship with China, one that is essential to America's peace, progress and prosperity."

Secretary Clinton also said she will "press the case" for greater energy efficiency and clean energy, stating that climate change also has implications on global health care and economy. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern will accompany Secretary Clinton on her inaugural visit to China, where she will visit a clean thermal power plant, built with GE and Chinese technology.

Discussing North Korea, Secretary Clinton stressed the importance of addressing "the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia: North Korea's nuclear program." According to Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration is committed to working through the six-party talks. "I will discuss with South Korea, Japan and China how best to get the negotiations back on track," Clinton said.

She added: "We believe we have an opportunity to move these discussions forward. But it is incumbent on North Korea to avoid any provocative action and unhelpful rhetoric toward South Korea."

Secretary Clinton also said that the U.S. is willing to "normalize" relations with North Korea and provide aid, but only if Pyongyang agrees to verify that it has eliminated its nuclear weapons program.

"If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula's long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people," Clinton said.

Reported by Stephanie Valera, Asia Society Online