Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived Monday evening in Tokyo, kicking off her first overseas visit as the top U.S. diplomat and demonstrating a new commitment by Washington to engage more closely with Asian partners on global issues.

“I have come to Asia as 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,” Clinton told reporters at Haneda airport.

During meetings Tuesday, Clinton will aim to reassure Japanese leaders of the continuing importance that Washington places on the alliance, while seeking a greater role for its key Asian ally in addressing economic challenges and making security contributions.

“The U.S.-Japanese alliance is vitally important to both of our countries, to the Asia-Pacific region and to the world,” she said.

The North Korean nuclear issue and Afghan reconstruction are also expected to top the agenda when Clinton meets with Prime Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, as well as Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan.

She will sign with Nakasone a new accord on the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, committing both sides to crafting a road map by 2014.

Clinton has also scheduled a meeting with the families of Japanese abductees in a bid to demonstrate the new U.S. administration will not neglect the highly emotional issue.

After her stay in Tokyo, which will include a visit to Meiji Shrine and a meeting with students at the University of Tokyo, Clinton will travel on to Indonesia, South Korea and China.

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