Secretary of State Clinton’s Diplomatic Travels

At least 36 countries in 10 months


Map showing the countries that have been visited by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton since taking office. (ABS-CBN News)


When she was confirmed by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 2009 as the next US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said that the best way to advance America’s interests in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to use “smart power” as the vanguard of its foreign policy.

America, she said, must use the full range of tools at its disposal, including diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural and pick up the right tool or combination of tools for each situation.

In her remarks before the Council on Foreign Relations in July 2009, she further explained this concept as a mix of diplomacy and defense where states have “clear incentives” to cooperate and live up to their responsibilities, as well as “strong disincentives” to sit on the sidelines or sow discord and division.

She has been putting this policy to action by making the rounds of countries in a bid to reduce global threats, advance American interests, and offer solutions to problems hounding nations.

She spends most of her waking hours on official visits all over the world. Before visiting the Philippines, Clinton has already visited at least 36 countries as US Secretary of State.

Secretary Clinton’s first trip abroad since taking office was to Asia in a clear message that the United States will be fully engaged as a trans-Pacific power and partner.

Visiting Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and China, Secretary Clinton discussed with senior officials the common approaches to challenges facing the international community, including the financial markets turmoil, humanitarian issues, security, and climate change.

Secretary Clinton’s trip to Indonesia reflected the renewed engagement of the US with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.

It was the first time a US Secretary of State visited the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

In China, Premier Wen Jiabao spoke of a “new historical starting point” in US China relations. In South Korea, Secretary Clinton condemned North Korea’s test launch, but continued to push for diplomatic efforts to restart six-party talks with the reclusive state.

In March and April, Secretary Clinton flew to the Middle East and Europe and hosted a trilateral meeting with Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers on the strategic issues, which are under review by the administration of US President Barack Obama.

Later, in July, Secretary Clinton came back to Asia to India, and discussed the structure and elements of a stronger US-India strategic partnership and to Thailand to lead the American delegation to the ASEAN regional forum.

The outspoken former US First Lady, Senator and Presidential aspirant caused a stir in some of her travels. Below are highlights of key visits.

South Korea

Clinton visited South Korea on February 20 to discuss the nuclear issues with North Korea.

She said in an interview that “I want the people of North Korea, as well as those within the government, to understand we hold no antagonism for the people of North Korea. They are suffering under this repressive regime, and we want those who are jockeying for power to know that there is a better opportunity if they comply.” Clinton said North Korea is an “overwhelming concern” and they are looking forward to a peace treaty in place of an armistice. She also stressed the need to completely dismantle the facility at Yongbyon and the reiterated the importance of the Six-Party Talks.

But she gained criticisms when she discussed the possibility of a succession crisis in North Korea. Her announcement of the appointment of Ambassador Stephen Bosworth as a special representative for North Korea Policy was also not enthusiastically received as he is keeping his day job as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University thus giving the impression that he will merely be a “half-time envoy.”

China

Clinton visited China on February 21 to discuss clean energy, the global issue on climate change, and shared security issues with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea. She also discussed human rights issues in China but stated that the US would not press China hard on human rights. Clinton said disagreements on human rights, particularly in Taiwan and Tibet, should not interfere with priorities on economy, climate change, and other security issues.

Some observers say her visit contradicted policies that she and Barack Obama had promised during their presidential campaigns like protecting American jobs from competition from low-wage economies and to force China to revalue its currency.

Egypt

During her initial visit to Egypt on March, Clinton brought with her $900 million aid in a donor conference to rebuild Gaza. When she returned on November 4, Clinton urged Egyptian leaders to resume peace talks on the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution. She reiterated the US stand on the illegitimacy of settlement activities despite criticisms that she praised Israel for limiting the construction of Jewish settlements.

Clinton’s trip to Israel caused some stir with Jewish leaders especially when she demanded Israel to speed up its aid of Gaza and to freeze Jewish construction settlements. She also criticized Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and said it was not following the road map for peace negotiations. On a later visit, she was criticized for encouraging Arab Gulf states to create a “defense umbrella” to protect itself from nuclear threats from Iran.

Kenya

In a policy speech in Kenya on August 5, Clinton said the US wanted to provide development support in infrastructure and agriculture, saying, “we want to be your partner, not your patron.”

Kenya experienced a politically-charged clash over the 2007 presidential elections that displaced 300,000 people and killed 1,300. The US recommended the setting up of a tribunal to look into the election clash. The Kenyan government refused to set up an international tribunal and let their own institutions look into the fight.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Clinton ignored security advice and flew to Goma, reputed as the most dangerous place for women and children in August 11, to call for the arrest and punishment of those responsible for the widespread sexual violence in Eastern Congo, where an alleged 200,000 women and children have been raped since a civil war erupted in the region in 1996. She urged students to mount campaigns to end such abuses, which were committed by both the military and rebel groups.

The trip was overshadowed by her “outburst” over a Congolese student’s question on her husband’s take on China’s growing influence on Congo. Clinton snarled back with: “You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not Secretary of State, I am. You ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.”

Pakistan

During her October 29 visit, Clinton exclaimed disbelief that no one from the government of Pakistan knew where Al Qaeda leaders are hiding. Osama bin Laden and leaders of the terrorist group are believed to be hiding in the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, a rumor that was denied by both countries. She also said Pakistan is in danger of “falling into enemy hands” because of failed government policies. Her visit was overshadowed by a car bomb blast in Peshawar market, which killed more than 100 people.

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