Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the Obama administration is prepared to seek a permanent, stable peace with North Korea (GETTY IMAGES)
NEW YORK (CNN) - Calling North Korea's nuclear program "the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the Obama administration is prepared to seek a permanent, stable peace with North Korea as long as the North Korean regime pursues disarmament and does not engage in aggression against neighboring South Korea.
"If North Korea is genijnely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administraiton will be wiling to normalize bilateral relations, replace the pennsinula's longstanding armistatise agrements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other ecnomic needs of the North Korean people," Clinton said in an address to the New York-based Asia Society before departing Sunday for Asia on her maiden overseas trip as secretary of state.
She is slated to travel to China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.
Clinton outlined a sweeping agenda of engagement with Asia, ranging from mutual economic recovery and trade to the prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation and reversing the trend of global warming.
Clinton said the United States wanted to move foward with the so-called Six Party Talks, working together with China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and North Korea to address North's nuclear program.
However, keeping in line with the Obama administraiton's approach of "engaging" its enemies, Clinton said the US would be be considering bi-lateral contacts with Pyongyang.
Despite the olive branch, Clinton warned Pyongyang "to avoid any provocative action or unhelpful rhetoric toward South Korea."
Tension between Pyongyang and its neighbor South Korea has increased in recent weeks, with North Korea announcing it would scrap peace agreements with the South, warning of a war on the Korean peninsula and threatening to test a
missile capable of hitting the western United States.
Clinton also sought to reassure Japan, the top U.S. ally in the region, about its key concern, promising to meet with the families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
Calling the 50 year old security alliance with Japan "unshakable," Clinton said she will sign an agreement to move 8,000 US troops from Okinawa to the island Guam.
Much of Clinton's conversations will be dominated by the global financial meltdown. She said despite the financial crisis, the US hoped to expand trade with countries in the reigon.
She called for an improved relationship with China, where she said the US would shortly renew military-to-military contacts. She will also try to establish closer cooperation on climate change with China, which has surpassed the US as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Todd Stern, her new envoy for climate change, will be accompaning Clinton on the trip.
Clinton's trip represents a departure from a diplomatic tradition under which the secretary of state in a new administration makes his or her first overseas trip to Europe.
But she said the Obama administraton's desire to "develop a broader and deeper" relationship with the region that has felt overlooked by the US despite its growing global importance.
"It demonstrates clearly that our new administration wants to focus a lot of time and energy in working with Asian partners and all the nations in the Pacific region," she said Because we know that so much of our future depends upon our relationships there."
Her 45-minute address offered few specifics about US policy before consulting with the allies in the region She delivered a sharp rebuke of the former Bush administration's foreign policy Friday, saying that the U.S. government in recent years had too often acted "reflexively" without "hearing the facts" or "listening to others."
The Obama administration's foreign policy will value the opinions of other nations, and will "hold ourselves and others accountable," and acknowledge American contributions to global problems, she said.
The United States can no longer afford to conduct foreign policy strictly on a "country-by-country" basis or by splitting the world into regions, she said. As both a "trans-Atlantic" and "trans-Pacific" power, America will instead begin to press for stronger bilateral, regional and global cooperation.
Officials said Clinton had hoped to name a named a special envoy for North Korea before leaving for Asia Sunday to signal the Obama administration's commitment to addressing North Korea's nuclear program, but that the timing and specifics of the job were still being worked out. Clinton told reporters she hoped to name the envoy "soon".
Stephen Bosworth, the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and a former State Department official, has been offered the job to replace Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill, who is expected to replace Ryan Crocker as U.S. ambassador to Iraq.