By Saul Hudson, Reuters, March 18, 2005
TOKYO (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressured China on Friday to persuade North Korea to return to nuclear arms talks as she launched a drive across Asia to revive the negotiations. Rice said China, North Korea's main benefactor, needed to use its leverage over its fellow-communist neighbor to bring Pyongyang back to the six-party talks.
Her pressure came after signs that U.S. patience with the negotiations, which also involve Japan, South Korea and Russia, is running out. North Korea has stalled them since June. "I'll leave to the Chinese what leverage they use or what mechanisms they use, but I do think it is important that the diplomacy that the Chinese do with the North Koreans be effective," Rice told reporters aboard her plane as she flew to Tokyo halfway through her first trip to Asia as secretary of state.
After starting in South Asia, Rice's trip will now be dominated by North Korea as she visits in successive days Japan, South Korea and China, who differ with the United States over tactics for the talks. While U.S. officials complain that talks host Beijing should do more to pressure Pyongyang, Chinese diplomats want Washington to tone down rhetoric that they say is undermining their efforts for a resumption of negotiations. North Korea, which said on Feb. 10 it had built a nuclear weapon, cites U.S. rhetoric as a sign of a "hostile" Bush administration policy toward it and has demanded Rice apologize for labeling the country an "outpost of tyranny."----------------