- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

NEW DELHI — China’s new law authorizing military force against Taiwan could make Europe think twice about selling new weaponry to the Chinese, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

Miss Rice, in Asia for talks this week, also said she will not let North Korea play the United States and its allies against each other in an attempt to hang onto its nuclear weapons program.

She has a long agenda in Beijing later this week, a visit made more delicate by China’s decision to codify a threat to attack Taiwan if the island declares independence. The Bush administration criticized the move, and Miss Rice said she will discuss it with Chinese leaders.

Miss Rice said the law may make European nations reconsider resuming weapons sales that were suspended after the deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. So far, the United States has been unable to persuade the European Union to continue the embargo, despite a major diplomatic offensive by Miss Rice.

Today in New Delhi, Miss Rice will promote expanding defense ties with India, and later with Pakistan, but is expected to stop short of announcing fighter plane sales to the nuclear-armed rivals, U.S. officials said.

On China, the Bush administration says more and better weaponry for the country would upset the region’s security balance, and could mean the United States might face improved Chinese firepower if forced to defend Taiwan from a mainland attack.

“The Europeans … know very well our views on the arms embargo, that this is not a time to end the arms embargo,” Miss Rice told reporters en route to India, the first stop on her one-week trip. “I would hope it would at least remind the Europeans that there are still serious security issues in this region.”

Miss Rice may use her visits to India and Pakistan to discuss new sales of F-16 fighter planes to the neighboring, rival countries. A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said no announcement of new weapons sales was expected during the trip.

Miss Rice, who will make her first trip to Afghanistan before stops in East Asia, said she will raise U.S. demands for democratic or human rights reforms at every stop, including Beijing.

China insisted yesterday that its new law is meant to promote peaceful unification with Taiwan, but Miss Rice said, “It’s our responsibility to say to both the parties that unilateral moves that increase tensions are really not helpful.”

As for North Korea, Miss Rice blamed the destitute country for its diplomatic isolation, and said international diplomacy remains the best way to persuade the communist regime to give up its nuclear ambitions.

“The six-party framework is the best and most reliable way to deal with the North Korean program, because it has all of the important neighbors at the table,” Miss Rice said. “What the North Koreans would like is to get into a bilateral discussion with the United States so that one by one they can cut separate deals on this issue, and we’re not going to allow them to do it.”

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