Clinton Raises Prospect of Direct Negotiations With North Korea

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WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested on Tuesday that there could be high-level direct negotiations with North Korea, and offered the view that American relations with China had been overly dominated by economic concerns during the Bush administration.

In her first remarks to reporters as the nation’s chief diplomat, Mrs. Clinton reaffirmed the Obama administration’s commitment to multilateral negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program, with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea also taking part. But she noted that there have also been bilateral talks within the context of the current six-party arrangement.

Turning to China, Mrs. Clinton said the United States needed “a more comprehensive dialogue” with Beijing, and noted that the strategic dialogue of the Bush administration “turned into an economic dialogue.”

In her brief appearance before reporters, she did not specify what other elements the United States would seek to emphasize in its relations with China.

Last week, the Treasury Secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, signaled a potentially more confrontational stance toward China, saying in written testimony to the Senate that China manipulates its currency.

Mrs. Clinton, fresh from a breakfast with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., seemed energized as she spoke to reporters Tuesday, and described a world yearning for a new American foreign policy approach.

“There is a great exhalation of breath going on around the world,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of damage to repair.”

Mrs. Clinton declined to be drawn out on two of the most thorny diplomatic challenges facing Washington: Iran and Afghanistan. Both, she said, were the subject of policy reviews.

Mrs. Clinton said little new about the maiden mission of her special envoy to the Middle East, George J. Mitchell, who arrived in Cairo on Tuesday.

“We’re going to await the report of the envoy,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton brushed off suggestions that the appointment of Mr. Mitchell and another special representative, Richard C. Holbrooke, would pose any management problems for her.

“We have already established a collegial working atmosphere,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting.

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