John Kerry has used his first major speech since becoming US secretary of state to make the case for Washington continuing to take a leading role international affairs. He also defended the cost of diplomacy.
John Kerry called for the US to stay engaged and defended the cost of diplomacy.
In his address, delivered to students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, John Kerry warned that while reducing the State Department's budget would bring short-term savings, this would come at an increased cost in the long term.
"Deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow," he said. "Foreign assistance is not a giveaway. It's not charity. It is an investment in a strong America and in a free world," he added.
This was a thinly veiled reference to a package of automatic budget cuts that are scheduled to take effect on March 1 - unless Congress acts to prevent them. This would result in a $2.6 billion reduction in the State Department's budget, which makes up just over one percent of US government spending.
The price of taking a more isolationist approach to foreign policy, he said, would be that "the vacuum we would leave by retreating within ourselves ."
The secretary of state also used the speech to call for coordinated international action to combat climate change, something which is opposed by the Republican Party.
Kerry, who as a senator failed in his efforts to pass legislation designed to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, warned that "rising temperatures and rising sea levels will surely lead to rising costs down the road. If we waste this opportunity, it may be the only thing our generations are remembered for. We need to find the courage to leave a far different legacy," he said.
Kerry, who took over from Hillary Clinton on February 1, is to embark on his first foreign trip as secretary of state next week.
During a visit to Berlin, he is to meet with his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel. Other stops on his nine-nation tour are to include London, Paris, Ankara, and Cairo.
pfd/rg (Reuters, AFP, dpa)
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