US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton entered the final phase of her Asia tour on Friday. She is now in China where she is scheduled to meet top leaders. Before leaving for China, Clinton wrapped up a visit to South Korea, where she talked tough on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the military airport in Seoul
Clinton’s visit to South Korea came amid rising threats from North Korea that it would engage in an open military conflict with its southern neighbour. Seoul fears that Pyongyang plans to test-fire a ballistic missile capable of firing at the US.
At a press conference on her last day in Seoul, Hillary Clinton warned North Korea against testing the missile, saying it would be a breach of United Nations resolutions.
She also urged Pyongyang to refrain from making threats of war, terming this attitude “provocative and unhelpful”. She also called on North Korea to return to negotiations with Seoul.
“Complete and verifiable de-nuclearisation”
"North Korea is not going to get a different relationship with the United States while insulting and refusing dialogue with the Republic of Korea," said Clinton.
Clinton hailed the development of democracy and prosperity in South Korea, which she said was a sharp contrast to the tyranny and poverty across the border in the North.
During her trip, Clinton emphasised the US commitment to Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament. She also nominated the former ambassador to South Korea, Stephen Bosworth, to oversee Washington’s policy on North Korea. Bosworth will serve as the US envoy to the six-party talks that were stalled last year after North Korea refused to allow verification of its nuclear material.
"There is no issue on which we are more united than North Korea. We maintain our joint resolve to work together and through the six-party talks to bring about the complete and verifiable de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We firmly believe that North Korea must live up to the commitments it made in the 2006 joint statement and other agreements," Clinton said.
China visit will be reconciliatory
Clinton arrived in Beijing late on Friday where she was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao, as well as her Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. Clinton’s visit to China is expected to cover a wide range of issues, says Jin Canrong, US expert and professor at the People’s University in Beijing.
“One issue will be how to go forward with the financial crisis. Secondly, the issue of human rights will also play a role. There is speculation that Hillary Clinton will bring up Tibet,” says Jin. He said that the discussions will also include security issues -- above all regarding North Korea. Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the issue of climate change.
Although there are possible areas of friction, in general Clinton’s visit is expected be friendly. Experts believe that her trip is a gesture of reconciliation to improve relations between the US and China, which recently were strained because of trade tensions.