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Kerry aims high in maiden foreign trip as secretary of state


10:01, February 25, 2013

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry embarked on his first official overseas visit Sunday.

The ten-day trip, which would bring him to Britain, Germany, France and Italy, as well as Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, suggests that Kerry is more focused on the Europe and Middle East than his predecessor Hillary Clinton, according to experts.

The U.S. secretary of state is expected to meet officials of Britain, Germany, France and Italy on bilateral ties and international cooperation. He is also to discuss France's intervention in Mali and participate in a meeting with Syrian opposition leaders in Rome.

He would then travel to Egypt to help reach a broader political consensus and push forward economic reforms, and to meet Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi on Middle East issues, among others.

The plan showed Kerry's willingness to bolster the United States' relationship with its European allies and also the willingness to tackle such big issues as the Syrian crisis and the nuclear issue of Iran, experts say.

By "not following in Clinton's footsteps in Asia" Kerry raised a few eyebrows among White House officials, the U.S. website Politico quoted a State Department adviser as saying.

While publicly supports President Barack Obama's "Asia pivot" policy, Kerry is privately less enthusiastic about the "rebalance" than Clinton, the unnamed advisor said, noting he is more interested in contemporary hotspot issues of Syria and Iran and helping to broker a new trade pact with Europe.

Meanwhile, three experts from the U.S. think-tank the Heritage Foundation co-wrote in an article that the Obama administration have not paid enough attention to the trans-Atlantic alliance in the past four years, and Kerry's trip to Europe would open up an opportunities for the United States to improve relations with these countries.

Michael O' Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution specializing in defense and foreign policy, told Xinhua that Kerry had made the right decision by focusing on the Middle East where problems are more serious than those in Asia.

Besides, experts also said that Kerry aspires to a more central policymaking role in the Obama administration than Clinton because he views the job as the apex of his up-and-down 40-years political career.

What's more is that the 69-year-old Kerry, having a closer relationship with Obama's team, can afford to be "more ambitious."

"He may well focus more intensely on the Middle East peace process and the negotiations that go into that, said Nina Hachigian, a senior foreign policy fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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