Isles should grab spotlight, Clinton says


POSTED: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hawaii has a chance to showcase its diversity and act as a model for the region when it hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum next year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday at the East-West Center in Manoa.

“;The opportunity for Hawaii, which is such a meeting place for East and West, is just extraordinary,”; Clinton said after giving a speech that stressed the need to strengthen regional institutions such as APEC.

The 50th state, Clinton said, can display not only its “;culture and the history, but the diversity, the extraordinary mixture of people from across the Asia-Pacific regions.”; “;Certainly with the values that our country has and the aloha spirit that Hawaii exhibits, this could be a model for the imagination of what could be in the 21st century for many of the countries who will be visiting,”; she said.

Clinton spoke on the lanai of the Hawaii Imin International Conference Center, overlooking its picturesque Japanese garden, to an invitation-only audience of about 150 people. Among the guests were East-West Center students, alumni and staff, as well as Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Mufi Hannemann, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, former Govs. George Ariyoshi and John Waihee, ambassadors and consuls general.

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The East-West Center was chosen as the site for her speech in part because it is marking the 50th anniversary of its founding by Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations among nations of Asia, the Pacific and the United States.

“;I think it's wonderful that we have this opportunity at the very beginning of our anniversary year to have a visit by such an important person,”; said Gordon Ring, alumni officer at the East-West Center. “;The Asian countries are aware of the East-West Center, but people on the U.S. mainland aren't as aware of it. I think this really is going to help build our profile in the United States.”;

Honolulu is the first stop on Clinton's Pacific tour, her fourth trip to Asia since becoming the chief U.S. diplomat a year ago. She leaves today for Papua New Guinea. “;I don't think there is any doubt that the United States is back in Asia, but I want to underscore that we are back to stay,”; she said.

“;We are starting from a simple premise: America's future is linked to the future of the Asia-Pacific region, and the future of this region depends on America,”; Clinton said. She said the United States intends to play an active role, adding with a smile, “;I don't know if half of life is showing up, but I think half of diplomacy is showing up.”;

Clinton emphasized the need to make organizations such as APEC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations more efficient and effective. “;No country, including our own,”; she added, “;should seek to dominate these institutions, but an active and engaged United States is critical to the success of these institutions.”;

She highlighted dramatic changes in the region, “;from soybeans to satellites, from rural outposts to gleaming mega-cities, from traditional calligraphy to instant messaging and, most importantly, from old hatreds to new partnerships.”;

“;We believe that Asia's rise over the past two decades has given the region an opportunity for progress that simply didn't exist before,”; she said. “;There is now the possibility for greater regional cooperation, and there is also a greater imperative.”;

“;APEC has been very focused on trade, which is important, but I am also focused on sustainable prosperity, broadly shared prosperity,”; she said in response to a question. “;We do not want to see the inequalities of the previous century being replicated among the steel and glass skyscrapers of a new age.”;

Across the street, a small group held signs calling for the United States to shut its military bases. “;Asia Pacific Vision: Peace,”; read one. “;U.S. bases out of Guam, Okinawa and Hawaii.”;