Alarmed by a rise in nationalist sentiment around the Asia-Pacific, the Obama administration is looking for Russia to play a greater role in the region as it seeks to quell growing maritime tensions.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at meeting of Pacific Rim leaders to gauge Moscow's intentions as it looks increasingly eastward after decades of European orientation. US officials say they would welcome a more active Russian role in the Asia-Pacific where territorial disputes, including between US allies Japan and South Korea, sparked by nationalist rhetoric have fuelled fears of conflict.
A senior US official travelling with Clinton said Russia's engagement in the region has until now been "episodic", not very active and primarily focused on the six-nation effort to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons.
Now, with Putin actively promoting Russian greater economic and strategic ties with Asia and hosting the annual Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum summit in much spruced up Vladivostok, Clinton is eager to hear what his "goals and ambitions" are and how they might complement US efforts, particularly in easing strains that could interfere with oceangoing commerce in the Pacific, the official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly preview Clinton's talks, said the United States wanted to see more "sustained" Russian interest in the Asia-Pacific.
Clinton began Saturday by signing an agreement with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that will enhance US-Russia scientific co-operation in the Antarctic, as well as link national parks on either side of the Bering Strait.
Clinton, who is filling in for President Barack Obama at the summit, has spent the last week in the Asia-Pacific urging peaceful resolutions to competing territorial claims between China and its smaller neighbours in the South China Sea. The US wants to see the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China establish quickly a code of conduct for the area to be followed by a mechanism to resolve the conflicts peacefully without intimidation, coercion or clashes.
At the same time, tensions have flared between Japan and South Korea over claims to Dokdu Island and Clinton will see the leaders of both in Vladivostok to express US concerns about their dispute over Dokdu Island and "remind both countries of the importance we place on their determination to work well together," the official said. "We have been concerned by tensions of late between Tokyo and Seoul."
"We've underscored that a positive relationship between Japan and South Korea is in the strategic best interests of the United States, and we'll continue to do so," the official said.