"We need to make the 21st century a time in which people across Asia don’t only become wealthy; they also must become more free," Clinton said.
"And each of us can help make that happen through our policies, our programs and our actions. And if we do, the benefit is not only will people be more free, but they will be more secure and more prosperous."
Clinton criticized countries in the region that she said have achieved initial economic success without democratic and political reforms, a jab at Mongolia's neighboring country of China, reported The Associated Press. She said the argument that economic growth must occur before democracy is "shortsighted and ultimately unsustainable bargain."
"You cannot over the long run have economic liberalization without political liberalization. Countries that want to be open for business but closed to free expression will find the approach comes with a cost. It kills innovation, discourages entrepreneurship which are vital for sustainable growth," Clinton said in a speech released by the State Department.
She told the audience that the "heart" of the United States strategy in Asia is its support of democracy on human rights.
"Those are not only my nation’s most cherished values; they are the birthright of every person born in the world. They are the values that speak to the dignity of every human being," Clinton said.
Although she didn't mention China by name, Clinton lauded the democratic progress made in countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, Timor-Leste and Burma, in addition to Mongolia.
"These and other achievements across the region show what is possible. And they stand in stark contrast to those governments that continue to resist reforms, that work around the clock to restrict people’s access to ideas and information, to imprison them for expressing their views, to usurp the rights of citizens to choose their leaders, to govern without accountability, to corrupt the economic progress of the country and take the riches onto themselves," she said.
The secretary of State's remarks were part of a speech at the International Women's Leadership Forum, where she commended that rise of women involved in Mongolian government and politics.
Clinton was attending the forum as part of a State Department trip throughout Asia, including a stop in Japan where she announced an international pledge of $16 billion in aid Afghanistan Sunday. She travels next to Vietnam, Laos and then Cambodia for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.
Read more on Clinton's whirlwind tour of Asia this week on The Hill's Global Affairs blog.