- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

SEOUL — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today it is time Japan ended its ban on American beef and offered Washington’s backing to Tokyo’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

As she began her whirlwind tour of East Asia, Miss Rice also said in a speech in Tokyo that China can do more to influence North Korea to resume the six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program.

Speaking to Japanese students and academics at Tokyo’s Sophia University early today, the secretary told Washington’s staunchest Asia ally that American beef is no longer dangerous.

“The time has come to solve this problem,” she said. “I want to assure you American beef is safe and we care deeply about the safety of food for the world.”

The beef ban, which was imposed after one case of mad cow disease was discovered in the United States, has strained the otherwise good relationship between the two countries.

Miss Rice said that Japan’s continued resistance to lifting the ban defies recent scientific conclusions about the threat and endangers the two nations’ broader trade ties.

The secretary, who met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi before flying to Seoul, also had praise for Japan.

“Japan has earned its honorable place among the nations of the world by its own effort and by its own character,” she said. “That is why the United States unambiguously supports a permanent seat for Japan on the United Nations Security Council.”

Miss Rice, who will visit China tomorrow after her stop in South Korea, called on North Korea to return “immediately” to the six-party talks about ending its nuclear program.

“North Korea should return to the six-party talks immediately if it is serious about exploring the path forward that we and the other parties have proposed,” she said. “This is where the North Korean government can find the respect it desires and the assistance it needs if it is willing to make a strategic choice.”

She had strong words about Beijing’s capacity to influence Beijing on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

“China has a particular opportunity and responsibility here, and I will soon be discussing in Beijing how the United States and China can advance our common interests on this and others,” Miss Rice said.

She also promised to raise issues of democracy and human rights during her visit to Beijing.

“Time and again we have seen that economic and political openness cannot long be separated. Even China must eventually embrace some form of open, genuine representative government if it is to reap the benefits and meet the challenges of a globalizing world,” she said.

“Clearly, America has reason to welcome the rise of a confident, peaceful and prosperous China. We want China as a global partner able and willing to match its growing capability to its international responsibility,” she said.

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