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US National Security Advisor Rice Holds Talks with Chinese Officials - 2004-07-08

Warm words, but also serious discussions on issues including North Korea and Taiwan marked the start of U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's trip to China.

Condoleezza Rice met with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing before going to the Zhongnanhai leadership compound for a meeting with the head of China's military commission, former President Jiang Zemin.

Seated in a large hall, the two officials exchanged warm words. Speaking above the noise of cameras, Ms. Rice conveyed greetings to Mr. Jiang from President Bush.

"U.S.-China relations are in very good shape," she said. "The relationship is broadening and deepening, and I look forward to a chance to talk further about our efforts and cooperation in the interest of peace and stability."

Mr. Jiang, who left office last year, remains deeply influential in Chinese politics. Ms. Rice's meetings on Friday will include consultations with President Hu Jintao.

Late Thursday, a senior U.S. official traveling with Ms. Rice said her conversations with the Chinese officials had touched on North Korea's nuclear ambitions. China has been key in organizing talks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

Also discussed, was the thorny issue of Taiwan. Beijing has criticized Washington for selling weapons to the self-governed island, which China regards as a part of its territory. At a regular briefing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said the issue is central to China's relationship with the United States.

"Whether or not Sino-U.S. relations can maintain sustainable stability depends, to a large extent, on whether the Taiwan question can be solved properly," he said.

The U.S. official traveling with Ms. Rice said she reaffirmed Washington's policy of not supporting Taiwan's independence, and repeated that the Bush administration would oppose any move by either Beijing or Taipei to change the island's status.

The official said Ms. Rice also brought up the issues of human rights and restated Washington's calls for greater religious freedom in China.

The national security advisor started her Asian tour in Japan on Wednesday. She heads to South Korea on Friday.