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New Pacific Overtures

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will make her first foreign mission since taking office to East Asia, a nod to the region's strategic importance and growing role in United States foreign policy.

The 8-day trip will see Secretary Clinton visiting Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and China for discussions on issues ranging from climate change to the international financial crisis. By recent precedent, secretaries of state have made the Middle East or Europe their first destinations in office, and the secretary is making a significant break with that tradition to focus on Asia.

During her visits to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and China, Secretary Clinton will be consulting with both stalwart allies and emerging Asian powers. Departing Feb. 15, she will engage Asian leaders to find common approaches to a myriad of challenges. With the international trade faltering due to the banking crises gripping many nations, looming environmental threats, and persistant security concerns in the region, they will have much to talk about.

Japan, China and South Korea represent some of America's most important foreign partnerships, while Mrs. Clinton's trip to Indonesia marks an effort to develop another one in Southeast Asia.

On the agenda in Jakarta will be talks on whether the U.S. Peace Corps program can be reopened there. The Peace Corps operated briefly there in the 1960s, but was suspended after only a few years. Reviving it would provide another means for the U.S. to reach out to the Muslim world, since Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation.