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Japan welcomes Clinton visit

world Updated: Feb 06, 2009 09:30 IST

Japan on Friday hailed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to visit Tokyo on her first foreign trip since taking office.

Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Japan on February 16 on the first leg of her Asian trip, which will also take her to Indonesia, South Korea and China.

"The decision to choose Japan as the destination of her first foreign trip shows her stance of emphasising the Japan-US alliance," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, the government spokesman.

"It is significant," he told a news conference.

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone separately said he wanted to strengthen the Japan-US alliance when he holds his first talks with Clinton.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Clinton would discuss issues including the global financial crisis, security and climate change during her trip to Asia.

Her choice of Asia for her first trip "is a tremendous signal of the importance of Asia to her foreign policy," Wood said.

Japan is highly sensitive about its standing as the key US ally in Asia and some policymakers had worried that President Barack Obama would focus more on China.

Many Japanese leaders have bitter memories of the last Democratic president, the secretary of state's husband Bill Clinton, who pressed Tokyo hard on trade issues and flew over Japan when heading on a key 1998 visit to China.