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US Secretary of State Praises China for Earthquake Recovery

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is praising China for its efforts to cope with the massive earthquake that struck southwestern Sichuan province in May. Her comments came Sunday, during a tour of the disaster zone. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with quake victims and toured a relief camp in hard-hit Dujiangyan, a city near the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake.

"I'm tremendously impressed with the recovery, with the resiliency and spirit of the people," said Rice.

She was briefed by local officials about the devastation, and spoke in English to young children who survived the quake.

The death toll from the huge earthquake is near 70,000 people, with many more still missing and believed to be buried under the rubble.

"With the disaster with this magnitude, no one can do it alone. And we are very glad that the Chinese government, the Chinese people, have reached out to the international community, allow the international community to help," she added.

She contrasted China's response to that of neighboring Burma, where more than 130,000 people died from Cyclone Nargis, which also struck in May.

She said the Burmese government has put up barriers to efforts by the international community to help the Burmese people.

"We are all trying to encourage the Burmese to allow us to help the people there. Many lives could have been saved, perhaps still many more could still be saved if we can get that response. We will continue to talk to China and others who have influence," said Rice.

From Sichuan, Rice traveled to Beijing, where she is due to meet Monday with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Topping the agenda in those discussions will be what are the next steps to take with regard to North Korea and its nuclear activities. On Friday, Pyongyang destroyed the reactor cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear facility, marking the end of the first phase of North Korea's
denuclearization process.

Meantime, international human rights groups are calling on Rice to also raise the issues of human rights and Tibet, in her talks with Chinese officials. The groups say basic human rights are still a problem in China and point to the recent arrests of outspoken dissidents as an example.

Tibet is an issue because of an ongoing Chinese government crackdown on Tibetan communities in China, following violent riots in March in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.