Thursday, March 10, 2005

Nuclear arms to lead Rice's Asian tour

By Guy Dinmore, The Financial Times, March 9, 2005

Nuclear proliferation and the war on terror are expected to top the agenda for Condoleezza Rice when she visits six Asian nations next week on her first tour of the region as US secretary of state. The state department announced on Tuesday that Ms Rice would visit India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Japan, Korea, and China from March 14-21. Her visit comes at a sensitive juncture in efforts to persuade North Korea to rejoin six-party talks on dismantling its nuclear programme. Senior US officials recently voiced frustration that China, the host and mediator, has not put more pressure on North Korea.

Pyongyang has refused to rejoin the negotiations that last took place nine months ago. Ms Rice would review diplomatic efforts to convene the next round, the state department said. Ning Fukui, China's special envoy to the negotiations, is due to meet Chris Hill, the head of the US delegation, and other US officials in Washington today.

While the US officials emphasise what they see as the overall positive trend in Sino-US relations, there is serious concern about China's military build-up and an anti-secession law, directed at Taiwan, that is currently passing through the National People's Congress. -------------------

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