For purposes of U.S. foreign policy, East Asia consists of Burma (Myanmar), China, Hong Kong, Japan, Mongolia, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. The Assistant Secretary of State for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs is Kurt M. Campbell.
The Obama administration initially continued longstanding American reticence in dealing with the Burma after taking over in January 2009, preferring to prioritize broader security threats like Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan . Susan E. Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, called the junta government's hold over Myanmar, known in the West as Burma, "one of the most intractable challenges for the global community". Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton claimed that the Obama administration was "looking at what steps we might take that might influence the current Burmese government and...looking for ways that we could more effectively help the Burmese people", though she echoed Rice's pessimism in noting the junta's historical isolationism and disregard for economic sanctions.
At the urging of Aung San Suu Kyi & American east asian partners the US held the first formal meetings with the Junta in late in 2009.
In a speech given February 13, 2009, Clinton said that "some believe that China on the rise is, by definition, an adversary", but "[t]o the contrary, we believe that the United States and China can benefit from and contribute to each other's successes. It is in our interests to work harder to build on areas of common concern and shared opportunities."  Clinton left on her first foreign policy tour (to Asia) on February 15, 2009 including scheduled stops in Japan, China, South Korea, and Indonesia. Joining her on this trip was Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern.
It had been earlier been reported by U.S. officials and media that Vice-President Joe Biden could emerge as the figure to spearhead U.S.-China relations. Clinton was reported to have fought hard to obtain the China file and lead the comprehensive dialogue with China. The Financial Times noted an inter-agency rivalry between the State Department and Treasury Department over the management of the U.S.-China relationship.
|“||"...our relationship with China will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world in this century."||”|
Prior to leaving on her tour of Asia, Clinton remarked, "We see the Chinese economic relationship as essential to our own country, so we're going to consult and work in a way that will be mutually beneficial."  Clinton attracted criticism, though, when she suggested that U.S. criticism of the human rights record of the People's Republic of China should not be allowed to "interfere" with cooperation with Beijing on resolving global economic, environmental, and security crises. But less than a week later, a report signed by Clinton criticizing the PRC on its human rights violations in 2008 was released by the U.S. State Department. In response, China issued a report accusing Washington of utilising human rights concerns in China for political gain and suggesting that the U.S. was turning a 'blind eye' to their own violations of human rights.
On April 1, 2009, Obama and Hu Jintao announced the establishment of the high-level U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue co-chaired by Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner on the U.S. side and Dai Bingguo and Wang Qishan on the Chinese side.
On May 16, 2009, Obama personally announced his intention to nominate Jon Huntsman, Jr., the Republican Governor of Utah to fill the position of Ambassador to China. Huntsman was the only ambassador in the Administration to be personally announced by the President. The United States Senate will need to confirm the appointment. Huntsman said that he and President Barack Obama believe that the United States' relationship with China is its most important in the world. Huntsman's nomination has thus far garnered positive reactions from both China and the U.S. Senate.
|“||"The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world. That really must underpin our partnership. That is the responsibility that together we bear."||”|
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited China from May 31-June 2 2009 and had discussions with top Chinese political and economic leaders. He had the opportunity to meet with Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and delivered a speech at Peking University, where he studied.
The high-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue will take place on July 27-28, 2009 in Washington, D.C. Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner will represent the U.S. side and Dai Bingguo and Wang Qishan on the Chinese side.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton will made high-profile trip to China on November 15-18, 2009 marking Obama's first visit to China.
Not long after Obama took office as President of the United States on January 20, 2009, North Korea elbowed its way back onto the international stage after a period of relative quiet during the waning months of the Bush administration. But in spite of a pledge, made during George W. Bush's last few weeks as president, to denuclearize, North Korea drew accusations of planning a new long-range intercontinental ballistic missile test weeks after Obama was sworn in. The accusations, which came mostly from Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States, were countered by Pyongyang's insistence that the alleged missile test preparation identified by U.S. spy satellite observation was actually groundwork for a North Korean satellite launch.
Obama, in solidarity with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, warned North Korea against "provocative" gestures such as a missile test. The United States Navy has declared its readiness to use missile defense systems to shoot down a North Korean missile if one is launched, either offensively or as a test, with Admiral Timothy Keating saying that the fleet awaited the president's order. However, North Korea warned on March 9, 2009, that such a shootdown would "precisely mean a war".
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stirred controversy on February 19, 2009, when she admitted that the Obama administration was concerned over a possible succession crisis in North Korea, in reference to the recent apparent illness of reclusive leader Kim Jong-il. While on a tour of East Asia over the following days, Clinton expressed the Obama administration's desire to engage in negotiations with the North Korean government to seek nuclear disarmament for the Communist state.
On February 20, 2009, the U.S. State Department, led by Clinton, appointed Stephen Bosworth as Special Representative for North Korea Policy. Bosworth embarked on a mission to East Asia in early March 2009 and reportedly met with Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and South Korean officials to discuss the North Korean nuclear situation.
Following unannounced nuclear warhead and missile testing by North Korea in late May 2009, Obama's State Department expressed disapproval, calling the actions a violation of a 2006 United Nations Security Council resolution. After Pyongyang announced its intention to terminate the 1953 armistice ending hostilities in the Korean War on May 28, effectively restarting the nearly 60-year-old conflict, the South Korea-United States Combined Forces Command went to Watchcon II, the second-highest alert level possible.