Former U.S. vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, criticized for her lack of foreign policy experience, emerged in Asia on Wednesday to give a speech that could boost her credentials for a possible bid for the presidency in 2012.
In her first trip to the region, the former Alaska governor spoke at an annual conference of global investers in Hong Kong and was set to discuss everything from governance to economics, according to the event's organizer.
Palin started off her speech — which was closed to reporters — with a light talk about the links between her state and the southern Chinese territory. One attendee who left early said Palin touched on Alaska's salmon exports and complimented Hong Kong as a "beautiful city." The person spoke on condition of anonymity.
Former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan have spoken in the past at the conference, hosted by brokerage and investment group CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.
"She was chosen because she's a woman of news value and presents an opinion that we feel would be of value to our fund managers," said CLSA spokeswoman Simone Wheeler.
Palin, who burst on the U.S. political scene last year when she was chosen as Republican Sen. John McCain's running mate, was ridiculed during the campaign after contending her state's proximity to Russia gave her foreign policy experience.
"You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska," she said.
Palin received her first passport in 2007, to visit Alaska National Guard members serving in Kuwait and Germany.
The Hong Kong speech marks her first major appearance since she vanished from public view after she resigned as governor in July.
Since then, she's signed with the prestigious Washington Speakers Bureau and reportedly been flooded with over a thousand offers.
Palin aides refused to disclose her fee for the appearance, which has been rumored to be in the low six figures.
While she's thought to be considering a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, her Hong Kong trip bore no political overtones, said Fred Malek, a friend and Palin adviser.
"You can read a lot of things into it, 'Is she trying to burnish her foreign policy credentials?' and the like. But really, it's a trip that will be beneficial to her knowledge base and will defray some legal and other bills that she has," Malek said.
CLSA requested Palin's speech be closed to reporters so she could make an "unfettered" presentation to investors, according to spokeswoman Wheeler. And Palin, whose supporters have long accussed the media of bias and harsh treatment, agreed. Since resigning, Palin has ducked mainstream news outlets and communicated with supporters largely via her popular Facebook page.
Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said Tuesday the group knew little about Palin's speech.
"We're curious as to what she's willing to say in private but not in public," Sevugan said. "Are there other countries that she can see from her window that she doesn't want us to know about?"
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