HILLARY Clinton, starting her first foreign excursion as United States Secretary of State with a week-long trip to Asia, said yesterday the US-Japan alliance remains a cornerstone of regional security.

“Its foundation has been and always will be a commitment to our shared security and prosperity but we also know that we have to work together to address the global financial crisis,” she said after getting off the plane.

“By strengthening our historic Asian alliances, starting right here in Japan, and forging new partnerships with emerging nations, we can begin together to build networks around the world to help us solve problems that none of us can solve alone.”

During her three days in Tokyo, Clinton will meet the families of Japanese citizens who were abducted decades ago by North Korean agents. The meeting follows dismay in Japan after Washington removed North Korea from a US terrorism blacklist without settling the issue.

As well as meeting Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, she will see the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Ichiro Ozawa, which could fan anxiety in Aso’s fragile government.

Clinton said the main issues on her agenda included climate change, clean energy and nuclear proliferation, along with the global financial crisis.

“I have come to Asia on my first trip as secretary of state to convey that America’s relationships across the Pacific are indispensable to addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century,” she said.