Clinton to visit Asia, forgo Korea
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has decided to skip South Korea during her upcoming tour of Asia, Europe and the Middle East, according to her department Thursday.
Clinton is scheduled to embark on a two-week trip later in the day to France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel, the department said.
In Paris on Friday, she will attend the third meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People, during which she will discuss ways to increase pressure on the Assad regime, the department said.
Clinton will then travel to Tokyo to attend the Conference on Afghanistan over the weekend, when she will reaffirm Washington's "enduring commitment to the Afghan people and join the international community in supporting Afghanistan's development needs for the 'transformation decade' to begin in 2015," it said.
The highlight of her eight-nation tour may be a stop in Laos Tuesday.
She is to become the first U.S. secretary of state to visit the communist nation in 57 years.
A diplomatic source said Clinton had also considered a trip to Yeosu, a South Korean city where a major maritime and environmental expo is taking place.
"Secretary Clinton took it into account till the last moment. But she couldn't spare time for that because other nations were added to the itinerary," the source said, requesting anonymity.
Clinton had recent meetings with South Korean ministers in Washington. She attended the so-called two-plus-two meeting last month with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and South Korea's foreign and defense ministers.
"President Barack Obama also visited Seoul in March for the Nuclear Security Summit," added the source. "The U.S. seems to have concluded that there is no problem in diplomatic discussions with South Korea."