Clinton says U.S. is 'back in Asia,' hails diversity of Isles
• Photo gallery: Clinton at East-West Center
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking yesterday at the East-West Center, said the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting in Honolulu will give Hawai'i a chance to showcase its unique diversity, its "aloha spirit," and its prime location as a hub between East and West.
The conference will bring together President Obama and 18 other heads of state, and Honolulu will play host to more than 20,000 dignitaries, advisers, support staff, security forces, business executives and global media.
"The opportunity for Hawai'i, which is such a meeting place for East and West, is just extraordinary," said Clinton, responding to a question from a fellow at the East-West Center yesterday, after giving a speech on U.S. plans for Asia-Pacific multilateral engagement. Clinton said the gathering of political leaders will showcase the Islands as a "model for the imagination, what could be in the 21st century" for Asia-Pacific countries.
Clinton also added, "with the aloha spirit that Hawai'i exhibits, this (state) could be a model for the imagination of what could be in many" visiting nations.
The APEC summit will be held in Honolulu from Nov. 12 to 20, 2011.
In her speech, which lasted about 35 minutes, Clinton pledged continued work to strengthen relationships in the region and to build new ones.
"The United States is back in Asia," Clinton said. "I want to underscore that we are back to stay."
Clinton's speech yesterday on a large open länai area at the East-West Center's Imin Center kicked off a 10-day trip through the Asia-Pacific region, during which she will visit several countries including New Zealand, Papua, New Guinea and Australia, where she heads today. She arrived in Hawai'i on Monday.
The speech was not open to the public.
About 150 people were invited, including Gov. Linda Lingle, two former Hawai'i governors, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, and state lawmakers. East-West Center faculty, analysts and students also attended.
In her speech, Clinton mentioned the East-West Center's 50th anniversary this year and the institution's role in bringing together people from across Asia and the Pacific to improve relations and cultural understanding. She said no region has undergone a "more dramatic transformation" in the past five years.
"The East-West Center has been a part of this sea change," she said.
East-West Center President Charles Morrison praised Clinton's speech yesterday, and her remarks on what Hawai'i has to offer to APEC leaders. "This place more than any other is a true Asia-Pacific community," he said.
Akaka said Clinton's speech and her choice to speak at the East-West Center highlighted the importance of the Islands as a hub between the Asia-Pacific region and the West. He added that her visit was especially exciting, coming on the heels of Obama's stay in Hawai'i for the holidays.
"So many things are happening here," he said, adding, "Hawai'i really has so much to offer."
Before her speech yesterday, Clinton visited Naval Station Pearl Harbor yesterday and presented a wreath aboard the USS Arizona Memorial. She called the visit a "moving experience."
TIES WITH JAPAN
Also yesterday, Clinton met with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, reaffirming strong ties with Japan.
Clinton and Okada discussed the U.S. Marine Corps airfield at Futenma in Okinawa. In 2006, Japan and the U.S. agreed to move Futenma to a different location in Okinawa. However, many Okinawa residents oppose the move and insist that the airfield must be shut down.
With Japan considering abandoning the agreement, which some analysts say would be a blow to U.S. defense strategy, Clinton focused her comments on what she said were the strong ties between the two countries.
"Let me repeat what American officials have said ever since President Eisenhower signed our treaty 50 years ago," said Clinton, before making her speech. "The commitment of the United States to Japan's security is unwavering."The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Mary Vorsino at email@example.com or 221-8681.