U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Japan, South Korea and China next week to discuss Asian security issues following North Korea's announced nuclear test. Her agenda will include enforcement of the U.N. Security Council resolution on North Korea that is likely to be approved in the next day or two.
The secretary will go to Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and perhaps make other stops on the trip, spanning six days, that she is due to begin Tuesday.
The mission is predicated on the U.N. Security Council's expected approval of a resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea, following the nuclear weapons test it said it conducted last Monday.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the secretary will discuss implementation of the resolution that is expected to be approved Saturday, and, among other things, bans sales to North Korea of items that could advance its missile and nuclear programs:
"Even with some minor changes to it, this is an extraordinary resolution," he said. "This is one of the toughest, strongest resolutions the U.N. Security Council has ever produced, if you go back and take a look at them. So, the focus of the world now is on passing that resolution, protecting ourselves, making sure that North Korea's programs can't be furthered, and sending a strong message to them that this needs to be reversed."
McCormack said the Bush administration's hope is that the quite robust actions in the U.N. resolution will change the thinking in Pyongyang that led to the weapons test, in defiance of the world community, and prompt North Korea to return to negotiations over its nuclear program.
The spokesman said the Chinese-sponsored six-party talks on the North Korean program, idle now for nearly a year, remain viable, and that recent nuclear actions by that country are reversible.
North Korea joined the others in the six-party talks - the United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea - in an agreement in principle in September of last year, under which Pyongyang was to have given up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
But it has not returned to the negotiations since last November, citing what it said was a hostile U.S. policy and sanctions imposed by the Bush administration against a Chinese bank that U.S. officials said had been a front for North Korean counterfeiting and money-laundering.
U.S. officials, including President Bush, have reiterated in recent days that the United States has no intention of attacking North Korea.
The Bush administration has rejected calls from Pyongyang for direct talks, but says it is prepared to talk to North Korean officials one-on-one in the context of renewed six-party talks.
Beijing figures to be the critical stop on the Rice trip, given that most of North Korea's trade with the outside world passes through China.
China is not part of the U.S.-organized Proliferation Security Initiative, the PSI, aimed at curbing trade in weapons of mass destruction, and it opposed having language in the U.N. resolution authorizing countries to inspect cargoes going in and out of North Korea.
Japan, however, is a full participant in the PSI and this week banned imports from North Korea, and barred its ships from entering Japanese ports.