U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has added a stop in Nepal to the diplomatic mission to South Asia and Japan he began Tuesday. He'll be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Himalayan kingdom in some 30 years.
State Department officials did not confirm the Nepal visit until the secretary was already airborne on the first leg of his trip to Islamabad.
He will spend several hours meeting King Gyanendra and other senior officials in Kathmandu Friday in a gesture of support for the Nepalese government, which is dealing with a left-wing insurgency and severe economic problems.
In a talk with reporters traveling with him, the text of which was released here, Mr. Powell likened Nepal's struggle with Maoist rebels to the U.S. war on terrorism, and said he wanted a first-hand assessment of the situation.
He said on his visits to Pakistan and India, he would see what more he can do to de-escalate their military crisis and restore political dialogue, which he said may be more important to reducing tensions than troop pullbacks.
Mr. Powell will also visit Kabul for talks with leaders of Afghanistan's interim government, and ends the trip early next week in Tokyo, where he attends the donor's conference on Afghan reconstruction.