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ANALYSIS – Clinton takes bigger role in China ties


ANALYSIS – Clinton takes bigger role in China ties

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hired envoys to tackle most tough foreign policy issues, but one priority she kept is China as Washington seeks Beijing’s help on challenges from North Korea to Iran.

Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner co-host two days of “strategic and economic” talks with top Chinese officials this week — meetings traditionally handled by the Treasury under the former Bush administration.

Sidelined recently by an elbow injury, Clinton also wants to reassert herself as a key player amid reports she is playing a lesser role in crafting foreign policy for President Barack Obama, her rival in last year’s Democratic presidential race.

Officials say Clinton — whose first foreign trip was to China — wants improved relations with Beijing to be a signature issue, with plans to broaden the previous focus from largely economic ties to a more “comprehensive” relationship.

“Over the past few years, the dialogue tended to shift significantly towards the economic and financial side,” said Clinton’s spokesman, P.J. Crowley.

“I think it (Clinton’s new role) reflects a return to a really broad range of issues, rather than a fairly narrow set that might have been the focus of the agenda over the past couple of years.”

The goal of the talks on Monday and Tuesday in Washington is to set a framework for the Obama administration’s agenda with the Chinese government — which is sending nearly all of its key officials for sessions.

“When you look at the U.S.-China relationship, it is kind of overweight on economics and light on security and foreign policy cooperation,” said Drew Thompson, director of China Studies at the Nixon Center.

Aside from stabilizing the shaky global economy, another focus of this week’s talks will be climate change and clean energy, an area Clinton earmarked as a diplomatic priority with Beijing and where some experts expect the most movement.

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SKorean leader urges strong army, citing threat

South Korea Koreas Nuclear

SKorean leader urges strong army, citing threat

SEOUL, South Korea – President Lee Myung-bak said Thursday that South Korea should strengthen its armed forces to cope with a continuing nuclear threat from North Korea despite recent conciliatory gestures.

After raising tensions with nuclear and missile tests earlier this year, North Korea released several American and South Korean detainees, announced it would resume joint projects with Seoul and offered direct talks with the U.S.

Seoul and Washington are studying the offers but have shown no signs of easing pressure on North Korea to disarm through U.N. sanctions imposed after its May nuclear test.

Lee warned that North Korea’s nuclear program continues to threaten stability on the Korean peninsula, and South Korea must not “let its guard down at any time.”

“It’s true that we need a dialogue with North Korea,” Lee said in a televised speech marking Armed Forces Day. But he added, “South-North Korean dialogue and peace will be advanced when we have a strong military with a firm readiness.”

On Wednesday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the country would make decisions on nuclear disarmament “in relation to U.S. policy” toward it.

In response, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that North Korea will continue to face isolation and “significant” sanctions if it is unwilling to give up its nuclear program.

Also Wednesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told reporters in Seoul that Washington is open to dialogue with North Korea if it helps get international nuclear disarmament talks started again, and urged the North to take advantage of the chance.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity now for them to take a constructive measure,” he said.

North Korea has been insisting on one-on-one talks with the U.S. since quitting broader six-nation talks on its nuclear program in April. Washington, which had demanded that the North first return to the six-party talks, is now considering direct talks to push disarmament discussions forward.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is to travel to North Korea next week, raising hopes that he could help produce a breakthrough in the nuclear row. China, North Korea’s biggest source of economic aid and diplomatic support, could be key in pushing for the resumption of the six-nation talks.

Wen also is to meet Lee and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in three-way talks Oct. 10 in Beijing that are expected to focus on North Korea’s nuclear program and regional cooperation. Lee and Hatoyama will hold bilateral talks a day earlier in Seoul, Lee’s office announced Thursday.

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Clinton:”My husband is not secretary of state, I am”

2United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses a press conference in Luanda, August 9, 2009.

Clinton:”My husband is not secretary of state, I am”

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Usually calm in public, top U.S. diplomat Hillary Clinton snapped at a Congolese student on Monday when asked about her husband’s views on a foreign policy issue, saying: “My husband is not secretary of state, I am.”

“You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?,” she replied angrily when a university student in Kinshasa asked what former President Bill Clinton thought about a deal between China and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion, I am not going to be channeling my husband,” she added, without commenting further on the infrastructure-to-minerals deal that has raised some IMF concerns.

The former U.S. president stole the diplomatic spotlight from his wife last week. On the day she set off on an 11-day trip to Africa, Bill Clinton was on a secret mission to North Korea to secure the release of two U.S. journalists.

Clinton said afterward she was relieved the mission had been successful but made clear the former president’s Pyongyang mission was purely humanitarian and not linked to the work she is doing to revive stalled nuclear talks.

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