United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to the Cook Islands this week to meet with Pacific leaders, including New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, has been confirmed by the State Department.

Ms Clinton's plan to drop in to the Pacific Islands Forum on Friday was one of the worst-kept secrets of the Forum.

Clinton's participation will make it the most high-powered delegation the United States has ever sent to the Forum - something widely seen as a response to the increasing influence of China in the region.

The State Department announced she would stop off at the Pacific Islands on Friday August 31 for talks with the 15 leaders of the Pacific Islands nations which are members of the Forum, and talks with other countries which attend as observers.


The State Department said the visit was part of the United States "intensive engagement and ongoing collaboration with the Pacific Islands."

"The visit also represents a concerted effort to strengthen regional multilateral institutions, develop bilateral partnerships and build on core alliances - three core elements of US strategy toward the Asia-Pacific."

Under President Barack Obama, the United States has put an increased emphasis on the Asia Pacific.

The United States is a 'dialogue partner" to the Forum - as is China - and talks with Pacific leaders take place after the Forum proper.

The Forum will open tonight.

Mr Key said he was "highly likely" to get a meeting with Ms Clinton and expected to discuss issues including Afghanistan, the US elections, and Ms Clinton's observations of the world's hot spots.