US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will hold talks in China and become the first top US diplomat to visit East Timor and a Pacific island summit on an 11-day Asia trip, US officials said on Wednesday.
Clinton’s latest trip comes as the United States puts a greater focus on Asia, which has served as a key driver of economic growth and where a rising China has faced growing friction with its neighbours.
Clinton will leave on Thursday for the Cook Islands to take part in the Pacific Islands Forum, leading the highest-level US delegation to the 41-year-old summit at a time that China has been increasingly active in the South Pacific.
“Her visit will emphasise the depth and breadth of American engagement across economic, people-to-people, strategic, environmental and security interests,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Clinton will head September 3 to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation which President Barack Obama’s administration initially eyed as a growing US partner due to its size and democratic values.
She will hold talks on September 4 and 5 in Beijing, which comes amid both friction and cautious co-operation between the world’s two largest economies on issues from trade to North Korea to Syria.
The talks will “cover a wide range of issues of importance in the US-China relationship as part of our efforts to build a co-operative partnership,” Nuland said.
Clinton, already the most-travelled secretary of state in US history, will on September 6 become the highest-ranking US official to visit East Timor, an impoverished half-island which became independent from Indonesia in 2002.
The top US diplomat will also visit Brunei – one of several nations with territorial disputes with China – and take part in the September 8-9 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in the Russian port of Vladivostok.
She will represent the United States instead of President Barack Obama, who has told Russia that he will skip the summit to focus on the home stretch of his re-election bid.
Clinton – who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination for president to Obama in 2008 – will miss the party’s convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Asia trip.