The Washington Times - July 23, 2008, 09:38AM

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was determined to resist playing the piano at an Asian summit this week, and host Singapore easily let her off the hook.
Miss Rice performed at the 2006 annual meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has a tradition of showcasing the participating foreign ministers’ stage talents at the closing dinner.
Madeleine K. Albright, President Bush Clinton’s chief diplomat, loved those opportunities, and Miss Rice’s predecessor, Colin L. Powell, tolerated them. The press was not allowed at the performances, but TV footage of them somehow always leaked.
It’s unclear whether the Singaporeans realized they weren’t going to persuade Miss Rice to sit behind the piano again, but to the disappointment of those of us covering the ASEAN meeting, they decided to break with tradition and cancel the skits.
ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said the reason might have something to do with certain delegations’ taking the performances too seriously. They rehearsed “sometimes in the bathroom trying to outwit each other,” he said.

“That was not the point. The point is to relax and bond,” Mr. Surin said.
Many people still remember the 2005 meeting in Laos, when the Russians’ performance bordered on professional, with costumes, music and props. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared dressed as “Star Wars” villain Darth Vader, with a dark hooded cape and a lighted sword.


— Nicholas Kralev, diplomatic correspondent, The Washington Times