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Rice to urge more openness in China

TOKYO—In a speech laying out an American vision for the future of Asia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday plans to urge China to allow for an open, representative government.

The call will be part of a speech that outlines what the Bush administration wants to see as Asia grows and changes. At the heart of the plan is the goal of a community of democratic nations that share values and take responsibility for global problem-solving.

Rice outlined some highlights of the speech on a flight to Tokyo on Friday, and senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, gave some highlights to reporters Friday night.

"Whenever you have a new factor in international politics, and China's strength and influence is a new factor in the last half decade or so, there's always a potential for downsides, but there's a considerable potential for upsides, too," Rice said.

"And given the American global economic strength, given America's alliances in the region based on both security relationship and democratic values, I think we have every reason to believe that we have a chance to guide Chinese influence toward the positive side of the ledger rather than the negative side of the ledger."

The United States needs China's cooperation in solving the North Korean nuclear crisis because China is North Korea's last major friend and its main supplier of energy and food. But Rice has said that the Bush administration is concerned about whether China's rapidly growing military might threaten U.S. interests in Asia.

"I just want to emphasize, the United States would welcome a confident China at peace with its neighbors and transforming its internal system at home," she said.

Political reform will flow from economic reform, Rice said. "We believe that as China becomes a more open economy, more open to the world, that it is going to be a natural development that China will also have to open its political system."

President Bush has been privately urging Chinese leaders to embrace democracy, but this time the message was made publicly and in the context of an overall plan for Asia. The ruling Communist Party has had a monopoly on political power since 1949.

Rice was scheduled to visit China on Sunday and Monday on the last leg of her first Asia trip as secretary of state. She has been to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and was headed to South Korea later Saturday.

The model for the kinds of relations the United States wants is its relationship with Japan, which shares global responsibilities and U.S. interests. For example, Japan, along with the United States, provides a large segment of global aid, and a contingent of its military forces is serving in Iraq.

The benefits for Asia will be security, economic opportunity and human development, the administration officials said.

On other topics:

_North Korea. The reclusive Stalinist country can get the respect it desires and the energy and development aid it badly needs if it's willing to give up its nuclear weapons programs in a verifiable and irreversible way, Rice said Friday.

The United States put out an offer during the last six-party negotiations in June that it believes meets all of North Korea's needs. The other parties to the talks—China, South Korea, Japan and Russia—agreed that it was a good offer. North Korea said on Feb. 10 that it wouldn't talk.

Rice said it was up to China to decide what kind of leverage to apply. "I do think it's important that the diplomacy that the Chinese do with the North Koreans be effective," she said, but added, "They're trying to be effective in their diplomacy. The North Koreans are not easy. "

_A new United Nations. The United States wants Japan to become a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council (now made up of the United States, Britain, China, Russia and France).

Other countries, including India, also are pressing for membership.

_India. Rice is expected to give new details about how to build a stronger relationship involving defense, energy and economic growth.

_Beef. Japan was the largest market for U.S. beef before it banned imports 15 months ago when mad cow disease (BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy) was discovered.

Rice planned to rebuke Japan for not accepting what American officials say is a scientific consensus that cattle less than 20 months old don't carry the disease. Japan has been studying the 20-month safety window idea, but so far hasn't accepted it and wants to buy beef only from cattle that are tested and proved safe.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Condoleezza Rice

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