Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Rice’s trip to Asia comes amid rising tensions

March 16, 2005

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— Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Tuesday that the United States would respond to China's growing military power by reinforcing its own military strength and strengthening its alliances with South Korea and Japan.

The Bush administration is watching China's rapid military growth with concern because of tension over Taiwan, Rice said at the start of a trip to Northeast and South Asia. She quickly added, however, that the United States doesn't "have any desire to have the alliances or our posture be a posture against China" and believes that "China can emerge as a constructive force in Asia."

Overall, Rice said, relations with China and the other countries she's visiting -- India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Korea and Japan -- are the best they've ever been.

"There's no doubt China is a major factor, perhaps the major factor, in the changing face of Asia, and it's a good thing that the United States has a constructive relation with China," she said en route to New Delhi.

While Rice warned China not to overplay its hand in the Taiwan Strait, she also said she'd be asking the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea how to get North Korea back to six-nation negotiations on ending its nuclear weapons programs. The talks involve North Korea, the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

"What the North Koreans would like is to get into a bilateral discussion with the United States so that one-by-one they can cut separate deals on this issue. And we're not going to allow them to do it," Rice said.

Her remarks on Taiwan and North Korea suggested that it won't be easy for the Bush administration to restrain China's military buildup and its saber-rattling on Taiwan at the same time it's seeking Chinese support on North Korea, trade and other issues.

China's rapid economic growth for years has funded double-digit annual increases in military spending, and Rice's comments came a day after China's rubber-stamp Parliament passed an anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan.

Rice said the anti-secession law, which threatens vague "nonpeaceful" actions if Taiwan pushes for formal sovereignty, was "not helpful" in reducing tensions.

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