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Rice to make Asia trip, talking about N. Korea
Updated: 2005-03-10 03:41

WASHINGTON - Condoleezza Rice will make her first trip to Asia as U.S. secretary of state next week to discuss with the Chinese and others how to resume talks on North Korea's nuclear program and to encourage India-Pakistan peace moves, the US State Department said on Wednesday.

Condoleezza Rice seen addressing journalists in Washington March 3, 2005. [Reuters]
US President George W. Bush has pledged to stress diplomacy in his second term and is sending Rice to the region on what will be her fifth foreign trip since taking up her post in late January.

After travel that has focused on Europe and the Middle East, where she was well-received, Rice will visit India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea and China on a March 14-21 trip, the State Department said.

"In South Asia, the secretary will highlight positive momentum in the region, including our transformed relationship with India, our continuing commitment to Afghanistan's reconstruction and our long-term engagement with Pakistan," the department said in a statement.

It said Rice would also review efforts to reconvene the six-party talks aimed at stopping South Korea's nuclear weapons programs. Japan, China and South Korea are, with Russia and North Korea, taking part in that effort.

North Korea, which announced it had a nuclear bomb last month, has refused to return to the talks since mid-2004.

India and Pakistan, which came close to war in 2002, have made peace overtures this year. The Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, hopes in the coming weeks to make his first visit to India since 2003 and the nations plan to launch a bus service linking parts of disputed Kashmir  next month.

Rice was expected to have talks with Musharraf which could indicate how far Bush is prepared to press his case for the spread of democracy in autocratically run states. The general has been a strong ally in Bush's war on terrorism.

Rice's visit to Afghanistan follows a State Department report this month expressing concern that four years after the U.S.-led invasion to oust the radical Taliban leadership the country was "on the verge of becoming a narcotics state."

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