U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is ending a three-day Australia visit Saturday, with a trilateral security dialogue with her Australian and Japanese counterparts. China's emergence as a regional power is a key issue in the talks, but Rice says there is no "containment" strategy against Beijing.
The Secretary has spoken in Australia about the need for China to be more transparent about its military buildup, and to play by international rules, as its economic influence grows around the world.
But she says the Bush administration wants a constructive relationship with Beijing, and is not contemplating a Cold War-style containment strategy against China.
The inaugural session of the three countries' strategic dialogue includes Rice, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso.
China is expected to be the central issue at the closed door meeting, but at a news conference Friday with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Secretary Rice insisted the agenda is hardly limited to one subject.
"The United States, Japan and Australia have a large agenda together," she noted. "It is an agenda that is not just about China, but also about Southeast Asia. It is an agenda that joins us together in APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation], and it is an agenda that is global. We're together in Iraq, we've worked together on Afghanistan, we are working together on non-proliferation issues, and so there's plenty to talk about when the foreign ministers of Japan and Australia get together with the Secretary of State of the United States."
The Secretary briefed Australian officials on the Bush administration's nuclear agreement with India. Under the accord, subject to U.S. Congressional approval, India will open the civilian part of its nuclear program to international inspection and become eligible to receive U.S. nuclear aid and technology.
At his appearance with Secretary Rice, Australian Prime Minister Howard welcomed the agreement saying it represents, in aggregate, an advance for the cause of nuclear non-proliferation.
He said Australia, a major uranium exporter, will send a team of experts to India to discuss the implications of the accord.
However, he said he sees no early prospect of a change in Australia's policy of refusing to sell uranium to India, because it is not a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"India had a good record in the 30 years or more since she exploded a nuclear device in 1974, has had a very good record in relation to non-proliferation. But, there isn't going to be any immediate change in government policy," he said. "Like all policies, you never say never. But, obviously, we have a policy, and we're not going to automatically change it because of the agreement between the United States and India, or despite the fact, of course, that India has expressed, as you all know, a great interest in purchasing Australian uranium."
The trilateral dialogue was the final policy event on a globe-circling overseas trip spanning 10 days for the Secretary that also included a stop in Chile, and her first visit to Indonesia since taking office more than a year ago.
After meeting with Prime Minister Howard Friday, she made a side trip to Melbourne to personally thank Australian troops who had served alongside U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Asian tsunami relief operations.
She also attended events at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, taking part in a women's swimming medal awards ceremony.