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Rice's visit expected to touch key issues
By Hu Xuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-17 23:32

The United States' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on her Asian tour, with her last stop being China. International observers believe she will talk about a number of key issues with Chinese leaders. These include the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan and the stability across the Taiwan Straits.

Prior to her visit, China Daily interviewed some Chinese researchers based at various think-tanks in Beijing on their views of the forthcoming Rice visit.

Wang Yizhou, deputy director and researcher at the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said:

One of the purposes of Rice's visit may be to seek a restart in the six-party talks on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

Recently we have heard some US and Japanese media commentators say that China is not being helpful enough because China is friendly with both the United States and Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Such allegations show no respect for reason or reality. Let's make it clear that without Chinese help the six-party talks would never have got started in the first place.

Since the Middle East remains the main concern of the United States at the moment, it may be in its own interests to seek a re-start of the six-party talks.

Although it is unlikely that Washington will make any major changes to its hardline position, there is chance the talks may see some progress if there are any concession from either side. And it may also be what Pyongyang hopes for.

Besides the stand-off over the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, the United States believes the Taiwan question and relations across the Taiwan Straits is a problem of great complexity.

Washington may feel it necessary to give, as China rightly deserves, some explanation as to the recent US-Japanese joint statement listing the "peaceful solution of the Taiwan question'' as one of their common strategic concerns.

It is also good for her to hear, and to experience first hand, Chinese leaders' expressions of their sincerity for peace in the making of the nation's Anti-Secession Law, which the National People's Congress (NPC), the national legislative body, passed on March 14. Talks are always helpful if the two countries are to better understand each other.

In reality, however, Sino-US relations have remained largely stable, despite some bickering over trade and other economic issues.

After George W Bush was re-elected as the President of the United States, Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader, extended his warm congratulations, indicating China's willingness to see bilateral relations maintain their healthy trend.

China is a partner with the United States in trade and economics, combating terrorism and maintaining East Asian security.

And the United States has recognized that, besides these issues, there can be greater opportunities in the development of bilateral ties. Both Beijing and Washington may reasonably hope that the coming visit by Rice will serve to facilitate their relations and pave the way for the mid- and long-term dialogue between the two countries.

Fu Mengzi, director of American Studies of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said:

Rice's Asia tour indicates Washington's emphasis, during the second Bush term, on its relation with Asian nations, including China in particular.

Her visit to China will be the continuation of the frequent high-level exchanges between the two countries during Bush's first term. Through them, both countries have demonstrated that bilateral co-operation can still flourish despite differences, and that differences do not necessarily have only a negative impact.

On the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, China and the United States share common interests in that both want to see a nuclear-free Korea.

China has always maintained a responsible approach on this issue, and has carried out painstaking efforts to ensure talks stay on track and move towards a peaceful solution. But it seems that in order to break the current stand-off in the six-party talks, both Washington and Pyongyang will need to adjust their positions.

In regard to the Taiwan question, a key issue in bilateral relations, the difference between China and the United States is that the latter favours a "peaceful solution'' instead of a peaceful reunification as China insists.

Liu Jian, professor with the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said:

If the aim of US foreign policy towards South Asia is to realize regional stability, it would be conducive to the fight against terrorism and world peace.

Rice's Asia tour also includes India and Pakistan, both important neighbours of China.

Since the United States always has a great influence in South Asia, Rice's Asia tour will contribute to the warming of relations between India and Pakistan, after improvements in their bilateral ties last year.

However, there still exists many problems in the region, and it is unlikely that her visit will produce immediate results. Yet any attempt towards sub-continent stability will benefit China by assuring peace on its western border and reducing the threat of terrorist disturbances.

Condoleezza Rice became the 66th Secretary of State of the United States on January 26, 2005. Prior to becoming Secretary of State, Rice served as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor. She was also in government service from 1989 through to March 1991, when she served in the first Bush Administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and as a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

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