Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Clinton issues warning on N Korea

Hillary Clinton in Tokyo, Japan 17 Feb 09
Despite a stern warning to the North, Mrs Clinton also extended a hand

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is watching North Korea very closely to see if it ends "provocative language and actions".

Speaking in Japan, Mrs Clinton promised that the US would offer North Korea aid if it eliminated its nuclear programme.

It comes amid mounting speculation that Pyongyang is preparing to test-fire a long-range missile - a move Mrs Clinton said would be unhelpful.

Mrs Clinton is in Japan on the first leg of an Asian tour.

The US secretary of state also announced that Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso will meet President Barack Obama at the White House next week.

Mr Aso will be the first foreign leader to visit Mr Obama, a reflection of the emphasis the new US administration wants to put on its ties with Asia, analysts say.

This is also the first time Asia has been the initial trip for a new US secretary of state since the 1960s.

Olive branch

Despite her stern warning to North Korea, Mrs Clinton also extended a hand.

Hillary Clinton: 'We must advance efforts towards a complete denuclearisation'

"I have said on several occasions that if North Korea abides by the obligations it has already entered into and verifiably and completely eliminates its nuclear programme, then there will be a reciprocal response, certainly from the United States," she said.

Mrs Clinton said it was up to North Korea to decide whether it wanted to abide by its promises to denuclearise.

On Monday, Pyongyang asserted its right to "space development", fuelling reports that it plans to launch a missile test.

The Bush administration removed the North from its list of state sponsors of terrorism last year.

Analysts say that has decreased leverage over Pyongyang, and the reclusive government may believe it can gain more by raising tensions than by accepting an olive branch.

Representatives of the US, South Korea, North Korea, China, Russia and Japan will hold security talks in Moscow at the end of the week as part of efforts to re-start the six-party talks intended to bring an end to North Korea's nuclear programmes.

Economic difficulties

Mrs Clinton began the second day of her regional tour with a visit to a Shinto shrine - a peaceful monument dedicated to Emperor Meiji, who is considered to be the founder of modern Japan.

Hillary Clinton, Meiji shrine, Tokyo, Japan 17 Feb 09
Mrs Clinton says balance and harmony infuse America's role in the world
She said the harmony and balance represented by the shrine would set the tone for the foreign policy of Barack Obama.

Mrs Clinton also met US embassy officials, and signed an agreement to move about 8,000 US Marines on the Japanese island of Okinawa to the US Pacific territory of Guam.

She earlier described America's relations with Asia as indispensable, in comments welcomed by Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.

Her visit comes at a time of intense economic and political stress for the Japanese government of Prime Minister Taro Aso.

His popularity has plunged to new lows, his finance minister has resigned, and the economy has shrunk so much that a minister likened the situation to the end of World War II.

Mrs Clinton said she was "absolutely confident" the two countries could navigate through the economic difficulties.

Mrs Clinton will visit Jakarta, followed by Seoul. Her final stop will be Beijing.

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