WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday offered North Korea a peace treaty, normal ties and aid if it eliminates its nuclear arms program and stressed her desire to work more cooperatively with China.
Searching for a way to end North Korea's nuclear programs is likely to be one of the main topics on Clinton's week-long trip to Asia that will also cover the global financial crisis and climate change.
"If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula's long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people," Clinton said at New York's Asia Society.
While the offer echoes an approach ultimately pursued by former U.S. President George W. Bush, in emphasizing it Clinton was underlining U.S. President Barack Obama's desire to revive diplomacy with the nation.
However, Clinton also said she hoped North Korea would not engage in what she called "provocative" actions that would make it more difficult to work with Pyongyang.
Talks to end North Korea's nuclear arms program have been stalled for months. Pyongyang complains that aid given in return for crippling its nuclear plant at Yongbyon is not being delivered as promised in a six-party deal it struck with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
U.S. analysts believe that part of Clinton's mission is to reassure Tokyo and Seoul that it will not bargain over their heads in talks with North Korea.
In a potent gesture toward Japan, Clinton said she would meet family members of the so-called "abductees" -- Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents decades ago to help train spies.
A U.S. official said Clinton hoped to meet the leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Ichiro Ozawa, a step that could unease the fragile government of Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose popularity has fallen into the teens.
During her trip, the official said the two sides would sign an accord to transfer 8,000 Marines to Guam from Okinawa, the southern Japanese island that hosts the bulk of the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan but whose residents resent military accidents and crimes such as rapes by U.S. servicemen.
Clinton wraps up her trip in the Chinese capital where she aims to cultivate a constructive relationship with the Chinese leadership.
"Some believe that China on the rise is, by definition, an adversary," she said. "To the contrary, we believe that the United States and China can benefit from and contribute to each other's successes."
Later this month, she added, the United States and China would resume military-to-military talks that Beijing suspended last year after U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
Clinton said she and Chinese officials would also discuss how to revive the world economy, saying she applauded Chinese stimulus efforts and would be discussing "what more we can do together in order to cooperate."
How to tackle climate change will be a key topic.
Clinton said that collaboration on "clean" energy offered a way to strengthen ties with China, saying she would visit a "clean" thermal plant while in Beijing that was built with U.S. and Chinese technology.