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Japan and South Korea were selected for the chief diplomat’s maiden trip to reaffirm their friendship with the United States and to continue exploring areas where these countries and America can better work together. Besides the global financial crisis, Mrs. Clinton was expected to discuss the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan with both countries.

The Sino-U.S. relationship is dominated by economic issues, and has visibly been closer in recent years. China being the third-largest economy of the world has made it difficult for the United States to ignore China’s growing influence in the region and around the world. Mrs. Clinton will visit China later this week.

The two opposing capitalist and communist ideologies have differing interests and differing approaches on many of the international conflicts. These differences have often surfaced in the U.N. Security Council. Despite the political differences, China and the United States have tried to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem, among other issues.

The Obama administration is apparently interested in moving beyond economic talks with China. During her confirmation hearing, Mrs. Clinton envisioned a new “comprehensive” China policy that will incorporate a broad range of issues rather than just the economy. During her visit later Friday, the two countries are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including the global economic crisis, climate change and the North Korean nuclear program.

Both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton emphasize the need to use diplomacy and engagement in dealing with the troubled regions of the world. The secretary of state’s first overseas visit to Asia will indicate the direction of U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration. Time will tell how successfully the new administration delivers its message of change.

However unlikely, many analysts and observers wish Mrs. Clinton would bring up some of the region’s political problems, including Burma and Tibet.

Nehginpao Kipgen is general secretary of U.S.-based Kuki International Forum.