Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at East West Center

BY JIM DOOLEY – Rains held off in rainy Manoa Valley for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 50-minute address on what she called “America’s Pacific Century.”

“The ties between East and West are absolutely critical to U.S. foreign policy,” Clinton told an audience at the East West

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at East West Center

Center on the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus.

“From the very beginning, the Obama administration embraced the importance of the Pacific region,” Clinton said.

The United States is committed to furthering economic and diplomatic ties throughout the Asia Pacific basin, she said.

But she warned that nations must agree to rules in trade, human rights and defense activities.

Challenges in the region, which boasts some of the planet’s fastest growing economies and busiest sea lanes, include “military buildups, concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, natural disasters and the world’s worst levels of greenhouse gas emissions,” said the secretary.

American statecraft over the next decade must “lock in a substantially increased investment – diplomatic, economic, strategic and otherwise – in this region,” said Clinton.

“The United States is proud of our long history as a Pacific nation,” she continued.

“And we are here to stay,” she stressed.

The president and Clinton will be meeting with leaders from countries around the region at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference now underway in Honolulu will travel east and south in the coming weeks for additional meetings in Indonesia, Australia, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, said Clinton.

She said Asia Pacific countries must agree to “a rules-based order” in their economic dealings with each other.

News crews set up before Clinton speech

That system must be “open, free, transparent and fair,” she said.

“We have to remove barriers both at borders and behind borders, barriers like corruption, the theft of intellectual property, government practices that distort fair competition,” said the secretary.

“We support not only open economies but open societies,” Clinton said, noting that the U.S. “will persist” in urging countries like Vietnam and Burma to enact social reform.

“As for North Korea,” she said, “it shows a persistent disregard for the rights of its citizens and presents a major security challenge to its neighbors. We will continue speak out forcefully against the threat from the regime that it poses to its own people and beyond.”

She said she will travel with the president next week to the East Asia Conference in Indonesia where a key agenda item will be developing “disaster resilience” for swift and effective responses to tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes and floods that have devastated Asia Pacific countries in recent years.

China represents “our most complex and consequential relationship” in Asia, she said.

“President Obama and I will make very clear that the United States is fundamentally committed to developing a confident and cooperative relationship with China,” said Clinton.

She and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will travel to Beijing in the spring to continue discussions with China on “the most sensitive issues in our relationship, including maritime security and cyber security.”

The 20th century was dedicated to building and cementing trans-Atlantic relationships and that is what the United States plans for the new century in Asia and the Pacific, said the secretary.

“If we follow that path in Asia, building on all that we’ve already done together, we can lift lives in even greater numbers,” she said.

“Our region is more secure and prosperous than it has ever been and that is directly linked to the cooperation that has blossomed among us,” said Clinton.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com