U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected in Asia Sunday on her first foreign trip as the nation's top diplomat.
The visit to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China is a departure from recent secretaries of State who traveled first to Europe or the Middle East.
Talks in China are expected to focus on building a broader relationship with Beijing, departing from the mainly economic and trade issues that have dominated the past several years of U.S.-China relations.
State Department officials said Clinton will address human rights and global climate change issues with Beijing.
Clinton's trip also aims to reassure allies in the region and build new strategies in dealing with the world financial crisis.
North Korea's nuclear program is expected to be a central part of discussions in South Korea, Japan and China.
During a policy speech in New York Friday, Clinton said the U.S. is ready to normalize relations with North Korea, but only if the communist country makes good on its promise to abandon nuclear weapons.
After her speech, she told VOA that the Obama administration is concerned by what she called the "terrible" human rights situation in North Korea, but she said there must be a "realistic" overall approach to North Korea that centers first on the country's nuclear program.
South Korea has warned that North Korea is on the verge of testing a long-range missile capable of reaching the western United States.
Clinton said her trip through east Asia demonstrates that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration will devote significant time to working with the region's governments.
The secretary of state said America's capacity to help solve the world's major challenges - from the financial crisis to terrorism to climate change - depends on decisions being made in Asia.
In her speech Friday, Clinton said she intends to press for "robust" and "rigorous" engagement when she meets with Asian leaders.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.