Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Rice won't let us down: minister

PRESSURE The US National Security Advisor is in Beijing for talks with the Chinese leadership, but officials here are not concerned that she will compromise Taiwan

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH REUTERS IN BEIJING

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday said he expected that US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice would not make remarks harmful toward Taiwan during her visit to Beijing.

But Chen said that Beijing would attempt to place pressure on Rice.

"I think what everybody cares about most now is how Beijing may exert pressure on Rice on cross-strait issues," he said.

Rice, who arrived in Beijing yesterday afternoon, is the highest-ranking US official to visit China since President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration on May 20.

Ahead of her arrival, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue (章啟月) announced that Taiwan will be one of the key issues Chinese officials will discuss with Rice, one of US President George W. Bush's closest advisers.

NUCLEAR PROGRAM

But Rice told reporters in Tokyo yesterday that North Korea's nuclear program would top her agenda in China, following talks on what she called the urgent issue in meetings in Japan.

China-US relations would also figure prominently, Rice told reporters before leaving for Beijing.

"I expect we will have a chance to talk about six-party talks," she said.

The US, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea and host China have now held three rounds of inconclusive talks on how to resolve the nuclear crisis in North Korea.

Rice met with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi in Tokyo on Wednesday. She vowed to pursue a diplomatic solution to the standoff with North Korea, which may have already built one or two nuclear bombs.

"For the United States, the nuclear issue is an urgent one, and we are focusing on how to get the North to give up its nuclear programs," Rice was quoted as telling Koizumi.

"I think we will have a chance to talk about the need for high-level dialogue between the United States and China. China, of course, is an important power in Asia," she said.

"We have an excellent relationship with China. I expect to have a chance to talk about that," she said.

DIALOGUE

A senior US administration official who is traveling with Rice quoted Kawaguchi as saying, "It is important for both Japan and the US to promote dialogue between China and Taiwan, which is important for global peace and stability."

Claiming that Taiwan-US relations are "very good" now, Mark Chen said: "We believe Rice will not do anything that would damage Taiwan's national interest." He added that the US government had communicated information relating to Rice's Beijing visit to the ministry, and that the ministry knew in advance that Rice would be visiting Japan, China and South Korea.

Rice will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) in Beijing.

China has repeatedly expressed its displeasure over US arms sales to Taiwan. Asked whether Rice would discuss with the Chinese leadership the NT$610.8 billion (US$18.25 billion) budget with which Taiwan plans to purchase weapons from the US, Mark Chen said a potential arms race between the US and China was on Rice's agenda in Beijing.

"I believe Rice's subordinates will brief us on her Beijing visit after she completes her Asian tour," Mark Chen said.

He also said it was unlikely that one of Rice's goals in China is to discuss Hu's possible visit to the US in the middle of next month.

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