As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton goes to East Asia for her first trip abroad, State Department said she would visit South Asia "at some point" after the return of US special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But the upcoming visit of special envoy Richard Holbrooke would "show that we're very interested, very concerned about what's going on with regard to the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan," spokesman Robert Wood told reporters on Thursday.
Clinton had chosen to go to Asia first as she "felt that going to Asia would send a tremendous signal to Asia and others in the world of the importance of Asia, particularly to our foreign policy agenda."
"And that's the basic reason. It's an important part of the world. It's a very strategic part of the world, Wood said. "And the fact that she's going to, you know, Asia as her first trip, I think it is very significant."
Asked why Clinton had not included South Asia, particularly India, despite the problems US was facing in Afghanistan, he said "the Secretary, at some point, will be going to South Asia."
But she "felt very strongly" that the US needed to get Holbrooke "out to the region as quickly as possible, and show that we're very interested, very concerned about what's going on with regard to the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
"She will eventually be going to the region, but the fact that we've got a very distinguished negotiator, as you well know, Richard Holbrooke, going to the region, that's very significant as well, Wood said.
Holbrooke would be having discussions with Pakistani authorities about the overall situation, and not just in Pakistan, but in Afghanistan, he said. "And I'd just prefer to leave it there."
While a special envoy is involved in negotiations with governments, as a special representative, Holbrooke will be coordinating amongst a number of US Government entities with regard to US policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan, Pakistan, Wood said.
In reply to a question, he said special envoy for middle east George
Mitchell and Holbrooke both "will stick to their mandates."
Embarking on her first trip abroad February 15, Clinton will visit Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. In all capitals, she will be discussing common approaches to the challenges facing the international community, including the financial markets turmoil, humanitarian issues, security and climate change, Wood said.