Clinton’s first stop was at the Cook Islands, where she spent three days attending the 43rd Pacific Island Summit, making her the first US Secretary of State to participate in the forum.
With a population of just 11,000 people and covering an area of only 240 square km, the Cook Islands nonetheless have strategic value in the competition for influence in the Asia – Pacific region. Despite their size, they are rich in natural resources and are linked to Australia and New Zealand, two US allies.
Clinton went next to Indonesia with the aim of tightening bilateral ‘comprehensive relations’ and discussing current commitments. Analysts say conflicts in the East Sea were the main topic of discussion.
Speaking highly of Indonesia’s role in ASEAN, Clinton called for more solidarity among ASEAN members on dealing with territorial disputes in the East Sea through peaceful negotiations.
Clinton is now in Beijing for two days to discuss human rights, ways to stabilize Syria and resolve maritime conflicts between China and its neighbors.
Last week, a spokesperson for the US State Department, Victoria Nuland, said East Sea issues are vital to Chinese leaders and in the American view, any dispute there should be settled "without coercion" and "without threats".
Although the US hasn’t declared sovereignty there, it always cites its national interests in maintaining peace and security in the East Sea. Washington considers multilateral negotiations based on the Code of Conduct in the East Sea to be the best way to handle territorial conflicts there.
Clinton will also discuss with Chinese leaders disputes between China and Japan over the East China Sea islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, which falls within the scope of the US – Japan Security Treaty.
Another aim of Clinton’s visit might be to build strategic relations with leaders who are poised to assume power in China by the end of this year.
During her third tour of Asia since May, Clinton will also fly to East Timor and become the highest – ranking US leader to visit the country since it was founded in 2002. The Jakarta Post reports that in meetings with senior leaders of East Timor, Clinton will underline US support for the newly established democratic nation.
She will also visit Brunei, which will assume ASEAN’s rotating presidency next year. The last leg of Clinton’s tour will be to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East to head the US delegation to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
In addition to trade liberalization, food security, and green growth, she will discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
The US Secretary of State’s tour of Asia is a clear sign that Washington is attaching greater importance to the region.