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International Journalists Discuss Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Trip to Asia

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice concluded a weeklong Asian tour last Monday that included visits to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and China. Secretary Rice’s first stop was in India, where Indian officials objected to the U.S. resumption of the sales of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terrorism.

Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s “International Press Club,” Indian journalist Sridhar Krishnaswami said that the United States has been working hard to develop closer links with India partly because it is considered a counterweight to the growing regional influence of China. He added that Secretary Rice is well liked in India, where she is seen as an influential member of the Bush cabinet who has had a “hands-on” approach to India. According to Mr. Krishnaswami, Washington correspondent for The Hindu, an added bonus is that “everybody in the outside world” knows that Ms. Rice enjoys President Bush’s absolute trust.

The threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was a major focus of Secretary Rice’s trip to Asia. Sung Joon Kim, Washington correspondent with the Seoul Broadcasting System, said her visit to South Korea was expected to boost the chances of renewing six-nation talks, which includes North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States, that have been stalled for more than eight months. However, Mr. Kim said that expectation was not met. He added that the United States should try to persuade North Korea directly through bilateral negotiations, but Washington does not want to do so. Furthermore, he described Secretary Rice’s designation of North Korea as an “outpost of tyranny” as distinctly “unhelpful.”

Chinese reporter Ms. Wang said Beijing views as significant the fact that Secretary Rice visited Japan and South Korea before continuing on to China. Ms. Wang noted that Secretary Rice was also concerned about Beijing’s secession law regarding Taiwan, and Beijing wanted to clarify Washington’s attitude on the law. Human rights represented another concern. According to Ms. Wang, it was “good news for the Chinese” that Washington did not raise any anti-Chinese proposals on human rights this year. She said the most important thing is that the new U.S. Secretary of State really wants to know “how to deal with China.”

At every stop on her six-nation Asian tour, Secretary of State Rice urged China to be more forceful with North Korea in encouraging it to return to the negotiating table. Ms. Rice warned that, if Pyongyang does not return to talks, the United States would consider other, unspecified “options.” But, Beijing continues to urge Washington to offer Pyongyang more “flexibility,” which some East Asian analysts regard as “code” for incentives or concessions.

To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.