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Clinton vows a foreign policy 'neither impulsive nor ideological'

Preparing for her first trip as secretary of State, she says she will value 'what others have to say,' which she cast as being in contrast with Bush administration policy.

February 14, 2009|Paul Richter

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promised Friday to follow a foreign policy that "is neither impulsive nor ideological" as she prepared for her first overseas trip to confront a series of sensitive issues in Asia.

Clinton said her approach would value "what others have to say," which she cast as being in contrast with Bush administration policy.

"Too often in the recent past, our government has acted reflexively before considering available facts and evidence or hearing the perspectives of others," she said in an address to the Asia Society in New York. Clinton leaves Sunday on a trip that will take her to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China.

The financial crisis will be an urgent topic in China, South Korea and Japan. But she said she wanted to talk about other subjects too, including climate change, women's issues and human rights.

Clinton said the United States and China would resume mid-level military contacts. Beijing cut them off last year because the U.S. was selling high-tech arms to Taiwan.

In Tokyo, where she lands Monday in her first stop, she will meet families of Japanese abducted by North Korea.

In Beijing, Clinton will visit a church and talk with women and nongovernmental groups. But senior U.S. officials said that though Clinton would broach human rights issues, such as repression in Tibet, she won't push hard for changes. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the trip.

Any public discussion of human rights would be dimly viewed by China's leaders, with whom she will also meet.

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, Clinton plans to seek ways to strengthen ties.

Clinton's speech outlined a North Korea policy that closely mirrored the Bush approach.

She said the Obama administration would normalize relations with North Korea if the country "completely and verifiably" eliminated its nuclear weapons program. The administration also would be willing to replace armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty and provide aid.

But she warned that North Korea should "avoid any provocative action."

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paul.richter@latimes.com

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