Rice wins Chinese help on North Korea nukes

Beijing urged to use its influence to jump-start the stalled process of dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs.

condoleezza rice 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
condoleezza rice 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won a verbal assurance Tuesday from China to use its influence to jump-start the stalled process of dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs. Yet it was unclear when or how the Chinese would follow through. In broad discussions with Chinese officials, Rice also won an agreement from China to resume an on-again, off-again human rights dialogue with the United States and she pleased her Chinese hosts by restating firm US opposition to a Taiwanese referendum on United Nations entry that has infuriated Beijing. But North Korea dominated the talks and Rice urged China, which has considerable leverage with its Stalinist neighbor, along with others n the six-nation denuclearization effort, to "use all influence possible" with Pyongyang to meet its pledges to the group. "I believe that all of the parties to the six-party talks have both an obligation and an interest to make certain that the obligations of the first phase are carried out," Rice told reporters at a news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. "We are the cusp of something very special here," she said, referring to the shutdown and continuing disablement of North Korea's main nuclear facility in Yongbyon. "Now it is time to move on because the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is in everyone's interest." "What I am expecting from China is what I am expecting from others: Use all influence possible with the North Koreans to convince them that it is time to move forward," Rice said. Yang said China was "consistently committed to the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" and would continue to work on the matter. But he also made clear that Beijing had already pressed the North hard on the matter. "The Chinese side hopes that the parties will treasure the results we have already produced, which have not come easily," he said through an interpreter at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. Yang added that China wanted all members of process - the United States, China, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea - to "create favorable conditions to overcome the current difficulties and move forward the six-party process as soon as possible." Although progress has been made in disabling Yongbyon, the United States says North Korea has not yet produced a full declaration of its nuclear programs, including details on the transfer of technology and know-how that could be used to develop atomic weapons. The declaration was due almost two months ago, and the North says it has already met the requirement but the Bush administration rejects the claim, which has slowed progress on the process aimed at restoring stability in North Asia and bringing a final end to the Korean War. Yang said China was eager to see the second phase of the denuclearization process - the complete dismantlement of Yongbyon, the production of the declaration and in return the provision of fuel oil to North Korea - completed quickly. Rice is in China on the second leg of a three-nation tour of Asia that has already taken her to South Korea and ends in Japan on Thursday. The trip coincides with an historic performance in North Korea by the New York Philharmonic later Tuesday in an unprecedented cultural exchange that some have dubbed "violin diplomacy." But the classically trained pianist has steered clear of the topic, ignoring it entirely on Monday in Seoul where she attended the inauguration of new South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and lauded his intent to hold North Korea to its promise to abandon nuclear weapons. Rice has previously played down the possible impact of the concert noting that North Korea's reclusive and authoritarian leadership is unlikely to be influenced by it. She has ruled out talks with North Korean officials while in China, saying such a meeting was neither warranted nor could be of any use in the current circumstances. In Beijing, Rice said she had also raised human rights issues, along with intellectual property protections, product safety, efforts to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and the upcoming referendum in Taiwan - an island Beijing sees as a breakaway province. Yang said China had agreed to resume the human rights dialogue with the United States that it had broken off in 2004 when the Bush administration unsuccessfully sponsored a resolution censuring China before the UN Human Rights Commission. He did not, however, give a date. China bristles at criticism of its human rights record, which it regards as meddling in its internal affairs, and groups have accused the administration of playing down its lapses to win Beijing's help in dealing with North Korea, Iran and the war on terrorism. Rice said she approached the matter with "respect" for the Chinese but stressed that civil liberties and religious freedoms are "very near and dear to American values." A senior State Department official said Rice raised specific cases of concern with Yang, but gave no details. On Iran, Rice said the United States was seeking Chinese support for new UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programs. China and Russia, veto-wielding permanent members of the council, have been resisting the effort. Yang did not directly address how China would vote but called for all sides "to work creatively" to resolve the matter. The foreign minister also said Beijing "appreciated" Washington's outspoken opposition to the Taiwanese referendum, which Rice restated on Tuesday. "We believe this referendum is not going to help anyone," she said. "In fact, it should not be held."