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Clinton Criticized for Not Trying to Force China's Hand

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's maiden voyage to Asia includes stops in Japan, Indonesia, Korea and China. As a White House surrogate, Clinton said she hopes to restore the image of the United States in the Islamic world.

"We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and cooperation on those" issues, she said.

Clinton's willingness to break a diplomatic taboo -- generally U.S. officials will claim to seek progress on human rights, even if they may not mean it -- appears to be part of a determined effort by the new administration to clear the linguistic fog of international diplomacy. She noted she had generated headlines this week with remarks on the failure of sanctions to influence the Burmese junta and a possible succession crisis in North Korea.

"I don't think it should be viewed as particularly extraordinary that someone in my position would say what is obvious," she said. "Maybe this is unusual because you are supposed to be so careful that you spend hours avoiding stating the obvious. But that is just not productive in my view. It is worthwhile being more straightforward. . . . That's how I see it and that's how I intend to operate."

She said she was "somewhat fascinated" by the reaction to her remarks on the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and whether there was a power struggle underway in Pyongyang. Her comments -- that "there is an increasing amount of pressure because if there is succession, even if it is a peaceful succession, that creates even more uncertainty" -- prompted front-page headlines in the South Korean press and were the central focus of many of the stories written by reporters traveling with her, largely because U.S. officials generally avoid the subject for fear of offending North Korea.

"To me, it is the most obvious issue," Clinton said. "It has been in the news for months. I don't think that it is a forbidden subject to talk about succession in the hermit kingdom."

Clinton said the question of Kim's continued hold on power has to be an important part of any policy review. "You have to be thinking down the road about what, when and where," she said. "Obviously it is a factor, but I don't see it as news."

Staff writer Ariana Eunjung Cha in Beijing contributed to this report.

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