BANGKOK — On her second trip to Asia as U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton is carrying a no-nonsense message about American intentions.
"The United States is back," she declared Tuesday upon arrival in the Thai capital.
By that she means the administration of President Barack Obama thinks it's time to show Asian nations that the United States is not distracted by its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and intends to broaden and deepen its partnerships in this region.
Clinton trumpeted that line in an appearance with a prominent TV personality before flying to a seaside resort at Phuket for two days of international meetings to discuss North Korea, Myanmar and other regional issues.
Clinton said she would sign ASEAN's seminal Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, a commitment to peacefully resolve regional disputes that has already been signed by more than a dozen countries outside the 10-nation bloc.
The U.S. signing will be by the executive authority of Obama and does not require congressional ratification, said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the move publicly.
The administration of President George W. Bush had declined to sign the document; Obama sees it as a symbolic underscoring of the U.S. commitment to Asia.
On her arrival Tuesday, Clinton reiterated Obama administration concerns that North Korea, already a threat to the United States and its neighbors with its history of illicit sales of missiles and nuclear technology, is now developing ties to Myanmar's military dictatorship.
Clinton held out the possibility of offering North Korea a new set of incentives to return to negotiating on dismantling its nuclear program if it shows a "willingness to take a different path." But she admitted there is little immediate chance of that.
The United States, in a joint effort with South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, is attempting to use U.N. sanctions as leverage to compel North Korea to return to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. A major element of the international concern about North Korea is the prospect of nuclear proliferation, which could lead to a nuclear arms race in Asia and beyond.