Madam Secretary

Where in the world should Hillary go first?

Where in the world should Hillary go first?

With George Mitchell already making the rounds in the Middle East, Richard Holbrooke off to South Asia, Barack Obama heading to Canada, and Joe Biden to Munich, where in the world is Hillary Clinton going to go? Rumors abound, but insiders tell Mark Landler at the New York Times that she’s off to Asia.

While no final decision has been made — and travel schedules are fickle — Mrs. Clinton is leaning toward a trip that could include Japan and China, according to officials. That would allow her to check in with a staunch ally and take stock of an economic rival. A stop in South Korea would give Mrs. Clinton a taste for one of her looming challenges: North Korea’s nuclear program.

Asia is not an obvious choice: her two most recent predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Gen. Colin L. Powell, started off in Europe and the Middle East [respectively].

It’s a long enough flight that, if you’re going to go, you might as well see everyone while you’re there. On the other hand, I’m not sure that Asia can be called “not an obvious choice” when factoring in the schedules of Clinton’s envoys, Obama, Biden, the upcoming G-20 Summit in London, and the importance of Asia to the U.S. economy in the midst of this crisis.

In fact, that Clinton might head to Asia (and specifically to China) so early in her tenure could show that she’s poised to reassert State’s hegemony over China policy from Treasury. Tim Geithner has already been rebuked by Vice President Joe Biden over Geithner’s confirmation hearing comments that the Chinese were manipulating their currency, comments that irritated Beijing. The relationship with China is a deep and complex one and needs a more diplomatic hand than Geithner apparently has and a less friendly-by-default one than Paulson showed. Clinton is probably wise to take an early lead in establishing herself as the go-to person on Asia in this adminstration.

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