US Secretary of State Kerry to make first Asia trip in mid-April

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry will make his first trip to Asia as America's top diplomat in mid-April, an official announced on Thursday, with North Korea expected to top the agenda.

Mr Kerry will travel to South Korea, Japan and China after first attending a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in London on April 10 and 11, said State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland.

He plans to "discuss the full range of bilateral, multilateral and regional issues as well as our economic cooperation and the environment", she said.

North Korea's nuclear test last month, which has heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, is likely to dominate discussions, along with concerns over Internet hacking emanating from China.

Climate change, with China one of the world's biggest producers of greenhouse gases, would also figure in the discussions.

"The secretary will continue to affirm the administration's commitment to further broaden and enhance US economic, security and strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region," Ms Nuland said.

Mr Kerry was "very much looking forward to getting back to Asia," she added.

The former senator, who took over from Hillary Clinton as secretary of state on Feb 1, made his first overseas trip to US allies in Europe and the Gulf.

But the Obama administration has stressed that there was no rethinking of its much-touted pivot to Asia.

Ms Nuland also announced that Kerry would take part in an Asean foreign ministers meeting in Brunei in June and would also visit other Southeast Asian nations at the same time.

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