Monday, March 14, 2005

On Asia Trip, Rice to Nudge Allies on N. Korea: Secretary Seeks to Knit Common Message

By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Staff Writer, March 13, 2005; Page A23

With the crisis over North Korea's nuclear programs looming in the background, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week will dash across Asia, seeking to nudge East Asian allies into a coordinated strategy for confronting the reclusive communist nation.

Some U.S. and Asian officials are increasingly convinced North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons programs, opening up the possibility that the Bush administration and perhaps Japan would begin to favor pressing for tougher action against the reclusive communist nation. But many Chinese and South Korean officials believe it is necessary to keep pressing along the diplomatic track, even though North Korea has refused to return to six-nation negotiating sessions that have been dormant for nine months.

Rice, who leaves tomorrow, will begin her week-long journey in South Asia. She will assess the rapprochement between India and Pakistan -- including possibly approving the sale of F-16 fighter jets to both countries -- and visit Afghanistan to discuss the nation's epidemic of opium production. Then, during a visit to Japan, South Korea and China, Rice will address the North Korean problem. She will also give a speech in Japan about Asia's role in the world, a theme that would encompass not only Japan's interest in playing a greater role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also the growing economic, political and military might of China.-----------

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