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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hillary Clinton, America’s Top Diplomat, Visits Tokyo

Photo credits: AP

On her history-making first trip abroad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reassures Japan of its status as an American ally and pauses during her visit in Tokyo to firmly respond to North Korea’s threats to conduct a missile launch.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler reports:

"If North Korea abides by the obligations it has already entered into and verifiably and completely eliminates its nuclear program, then there will be a reciprocal response, certainly from the United States," Clinton said. "But the decision as to whether North Korea will cooperate in [negotiations], end provocative language and actions, is up to them -- and we are watching very closely."

Clinton, who arrived here on the first stop of her Asian tour Monday, also surprised the embattled government of Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso by extending an invitation for him to visit the White House on Feb. 24, making him the first foreign leader to receive such an invitation from President Obama.

At the top of her game as a diplomat and world citizen, Clinton also participated in several ceremonial events:

At an elaborate arrival ceremony Monday night, Clinton lauded the U.S.-Japanese partnership, calling it "a cornerstone of our efforts around the world." She addressed a group of dignitaries that included two female Japanese astronauts who participated in the U.S. space shuttle program and Japanese Special Olympics athletes who recently competed in Idaho.

On Tuesday morning, Clinton participated in another welcoming ceremony and a purification rite at a Shinto shrine to former Emperor Meiji. She was given tea and exchanged gifts with the main priests, telling them that she appreciated the message of "harmony and peace that this shrine represents."

Later, she told about 200 U.S. Embassy employees that the notion of peace and harmony was "not only a good concept for religious shrines, it's a good concept for America's role in the world. We need to be looking to create more balance, more harmony."

Breaking ground in her role as secretary of state, Kessler reports that Clinton is the first U.S. secretary of state in nearly 50 years to visit Asia during his or her first trip abroad.

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