- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 9, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday she is confident that China is fully committed to a denuclearized North Korea, despite contentions by some U.S. officials that China should be putting more pressure on its longtime ally.

China is the first stop for Miss Rice on a four-nation East Asia swing that is aimed primarily at finding ways to encourage North Korea to end a yearlong boycott of multilateral negotiations on its nuclear disarmament.

“When it comes to making sure that over time we get a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, that’s just a very high priority for the Chinese,” Miss Rice said, speaking to reporters before her plane landed in Alaska to refuel.

As the principle source for food and energy assistance to North Korea, China has more leverage over its neighbor than other parties to the six-nation negotiating process.

Miss Rice declined to pass judgment on whether China has been doing enough. “We want China to do as much as it can,” she said.

She added that she will ask the Chinese for an update on recent discussions with the North Koreans. But she made clear that she is not prepared to hand the Chinese a list of things they should do to pressure North Korea. Rather, she said, “I’m going to ask them how to get the talks resumed.”

Robert Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said recently that the administration believes “China can do more to get [the North Koreans] to eliminate their nuclear weapons program.”

Besides China, Miss Rice also plans stops in Japan and South Korea, which also are members of the six-party process. She said her trip is aimed at “taking stock” of the North Korean situation following a series of diplomatic exchanges among participants in the process.

Yesterday, the Chinese government said it will send a special envoy to North Korea next week after Miss Rice visits Beijing.

A fourth stop for the top American diplomat will be the Thai resort city of Phuket, where she will examine reconstruction efforts since last December’s devastating tsunami.

Even though North Korea has declined to set a date for resumption of the discussions, Miss Rice indicated there was no sense of urgency, saying she has no deadline for getting back to the bargaining table.

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