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Rice urges 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 urged China to allow for an open, representative government.

The United States is concerned about China's military buildup, Rice said, but she added that strong U.S. alliances in the region and ensuring that "American military forces are second to none" would create an "atmosphere where democracy can take hold."

Rice's speech at Tokyo's Roman Catholic Sophia University outlined 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.

"Time and again we have seen that economic and political openness cannot long be separated," Rice said. "Even China must eventually embrace some form of open, genuinely representative government if it's to reap the benefits and meet the challenges of a globalizing world."

China's leaders "will see that democracy works," she predicted. "They will see that freedom of religion and respect for human rights are part of the foundation of decent and successful societies."

Rice said China's rising influence could "take a turn for the better or a turn for the worse."

"It is our responsibility to try to push and prod and persuade China toward a more positive course," she said, adding that China already was taking steps to ensure global security, such as cooperating in the war on terrorism and in the talks to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

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's 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. Rice stressed that other U.S. alliances also would help shape Asian security.

"As we look to China's rise I really do believe the U.S.-Japan relationship, the U.S.-South Korea relationship, the U.S.-India relationship all are important in creating an environment where China is more likely to play a positive role than a negative role," she said.

The goal for the "Pacific community" should be working together for security, economic opportunity and freedom, she said.

"We know what works. Economic openness, political openness and our commitment to global standards that reinforce that openness work," Rice said.

On other topics:

_ North Korea: The reclusive Stalinist country can get security guarantees and aid if it gives up its nuclear weapons programs.

The United States' negotiating partners in talks with North Korea—China, South Korea, Japan and Russia—all bring different incentives and leverage, Rice said. "We can all do a better job," she said. "It's 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.

"The time has come to solve this problem," Rice said. Japan should accept a scientific consensus on how to deal with the problem, she said, referring to what American officials say is a scientific certainty that cattle younger than 20 months old don't carry the disease.

Japan hasn't decided whether to accept that age limit or how to measure the age of slaughtered cattle. So far it's insisted that it will only buy beef products from cattle that are individually tested.

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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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