US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Vietnam and the Philippines following a trip to the Middle East beginning Dec. 11, the State Department said in a press release on December 9.

The department said within the Asia-Pacific rebalance, Southeast Asia holds special importance, and the Secretary’s travel to Vietnam and the Philippines demonstrates the enduring US commitment and his personal connections to the region.

The Secretary’s visit to Vietnam will highlight the dramatic transformation in the bilateral relationship over the years and the growing partnership in many areas, the press release said, adding that in Hanoi, the Secretary will meet with senior Vietnamese leaders to advance the Comprehensive Partnership announced by President Obama and President Truong Tan Sang in July and to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional issues.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Secretary Kerry’s meetings will underscore the growth of bilateral trade relationship and the empowering role of education. His visit to the Mekong Delta will emphasize how Americans and Vietnamese can work together on critical issues such as climate change and renewable energy.

According to the press release, Secretary Kerry will then travel to the Philippines , where he will meet with senior Philippine officials to discuss ways to build on their economic, security, and people-to-people relations. Then, the Secretary will visit the storm-hit city of Tacloban to witness first-hand the recovery efforts that are taking place there and discuss how the United States can continue to contribute to the relief and reconstruction work.

This trip to Asia will be Kerry's fourth to the region since becoming Secretary of State.-VNA