to visit China, South Korea, Indonesia and Abu Dhabi
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[February 10, 2014]
By David Brunnstrom
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerry will begin a trip this week to China, South Korea,
Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates, the State Department said on
Sunday, at a time of high tensions in Asia over China's increasingly
assertive territorial claims.
The trip, which runs from Thursday to February 18, will be Kerry's
fifth visit to Asia since he became secretary of state just over a
year ago, and comes before a planned visit by President Barack Obama
in April to promote a strategic U.S. "pivot" to the region announced
Kerry will visit Seoul, Beijing, Jakarta and Abu Dhabi "to meet with
senior government officials and address a range of bilateral,
regional, and global issues," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki
said in a statement.
In Beijing and Seoul, Kerry's talks are expected to focus on an air
defense zone China declared last year covering territory also
claimed by South Korea and Japan, including uninhabited islands in
the East China Sea. He is also expected to discuss concerns about
North Korea's nuclear program.
Psaki said Kerry would relay to Chinese officials "that the United
States is committed to pursuing a positive, cooperative,
comprehensive relationship and welcomes the rise of a peaceful and
prosperous China that plays a positive role in world affairs."
He will also discuss North Korea and highlight the importance of
U.S.-China collaboration on climate change and clean energy, Psaki's
During his stop in Seoul, Kerry will discuss North Korea and ways to
expand U.S.-South Korean cooperation on regional and global issues,
the statement added.
In Jakarta, Kerry will co-chair the Joint Commission Meeting under
the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership and meet the secretary
general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
While in Abu Dhabi, he will discuss issues of interest to the
U.S.-UAE relationship, the State Department said.
Kerry has faced criticism for the amount of time he has devoted to
peace efforts in the Middle East rather than the rebalancing of
military and economic focus toward Asia in reaction to the growing
clout of China.
Concerns about U.S. commitments to the region were highlighted in
October when Obama called off plans to attend two summits in Asia
because of a budget crisis at home.
Kerry stood in for Obama at
those meetings and held talks in Japan involving U.S. Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in which they agreed to modernize
the U.S.-Japan defense alliance for the first time in 16 years.
[to top of second column]
Vice President Joe Biden followed up with a visit to Japan, Beijing
and Seoul in December, but Kerry will have to work hard to counter a
perception among many in Asia that Obama's pivot is more rhetoric
On Friday, Kerry met Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in
Washington and stressed the U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan
and stability in the Asia-Pacific region against the backdrop of
Chinese territorial claims.
He said the United States and Japan were committed to closer
security collaboration and reiterated that Washington "neither
recognizes nor accepts" an air defense zone China has declared in
East China Sea and would not change how it conducts operations
The United States flew B-52s through the Chinese air defense zone
after it was declared last year. U.S. officials have warned that any
declaration by Beijing of another such zone in the South China Sea
could result in changes to U.S. military deployments in the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei attacked Kerry's remarks
on Saturday, saying China's air defense zone was fully in line with
international law and norms.
"We urge the U.S. side to stop making irresponsible remarks so as
not to harm regional stability and the China-U.S. relationship,"
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom;
editing by Doina Chiacu and Peter
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