Clinton to meet Japan foreign min. first on Asia trip

WASHINGTON Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:36pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Japan's foreign minister next Wednesday in Hawaii at the start of a trip meant to emphasize strong U.S. ties throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. State Department said on Friday that Clinton will also visit Vietnam, where she will launch formal U.S. participation in the East Asia Summit, as well as Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia.

"She will begin her trip in Honolulu where she will both have a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister (Seiji) Maehara and then deliver a speech on U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific region," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a news briefing.

The trip is expected to focus in part on China's rising power in the region, underscored in recent weeks by sharp words between Beijing and Tokyo over a maritime dispute.

U.S. officials have stressed the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance despite tensions over a 2006 pact to relocate a U.S. Marine air base on the southern island of Okinawa.

Domestic opposition to the plan helped to unseat former Japanese Prime Yukio Hatoyama, but his successor Natao Kan has said he will implement the base move -- a step the United States says is essential to a broader realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.

Clinton will participate in the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, setting the stage for U.S. President Barack Obama to attend as head of state next year, and will end the trip in Australia where she will participate in an annual meeting of the two countries' defense and foreign ministers.

Crowley said that Clinton's travel schedule meant she would not accompany Obama to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Yokohama, with Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg filling in for the State Department.

Clinton's Asia-Pacific trip reschedules many of the same stops she was due to make on a trip in January that was cut short when she decided to return to Washington to help cope with the aftermath of the massive January 12 earthquake in Haiti.

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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