Clinton lauded for flying to Japan first

Kyodo News

Japan on Friday welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s decision to visit from Feb. 16 to 18, the first stop on her maiden trip overseas as the top U.S. diplomat.

Clinton’s visit will also take her to Indonesia, South Korea and China.

“Japan being the first stop reflects the importance (President Barack Obama’s administration) places on the Japan-U.S. alliance and carries great significance,” Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said at a morning news conference.

In addition to holding talks with Nakasone, Clinton will meet Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Nakasone said he expects to discuss several issues with Clinton, including the financial crisis, the North Korean nuclear issue, Pyongyang’s decades-old abductions of Japanese nationals, climate change and global security.

“What is important is to further strengthen the bilateral alliance through the talks,” Nakasone said. “Through high-level discussions between the United States and Japan, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 economies, this will be an opportunity for us to contribute to resolving the global economic crisis.”

Nakasone said he plans to convey Japan’s positions on the North Korean nuclear and missile threats, and discuss with Clinton how to step up antiterrorism support and humanitarian assistance in areas that include Gaza, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Separately, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said, “We look forward to frank and honest discussion at the foreign ministerial talks on tackling various issues faced by the world, securing peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and strengthening the alliance.”

Kawamura stressed that Japan will seek to share “common awareness” with Clinton on the unresolved abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.

In Washington, the State Department said that after Japan, Clinton will visit to Indonesia from Feb. 18 to 19, South Korea from Feb. 19 to 20, and China from Feb. 20 to 22.

Asked why Clinton chose Tokyo as her first stop, State Department Acting Press Secretary Robert Wood said, “Japan is an important partner and ally to the United States.”

Hamada to meet Nye

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada will meet with Joseph Nye, reported to be the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, in Munich on Saturday, the Defense Ministry said Friday.

The meeting will be the first between a Cabinet member and the former Pentagon official since his name was linked to the position early last month.