Rice Urges China to Allow More
Monday, March 21, 2005
(VOA) - U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has concluded a week-long Asian tour
with a stop in Beijing, where she urged leaders to improve China's human
rights record. The top U.S. diplomat also called on Chinese leaders to
respect religious freedom.
While visiting U.S. officials usually call China on the religious freedom
issue, it appeared to be personal conviction that brought Ms. Rice to press
the case during her meetings here with Chinese officials.
Ms. Rice attended a Palm Sunday service at a Christian church following
her meetings with President Hu Jintao and other officials. At a briefing
Monday, she said she urged leaders here to consider a more open political
system for China that would - in her words - "match its economic openness"
and allow for the full creativity of the Chinese people.
"I do hope that there is an understanding that religious communities are
not a threat to transitioning societies," said Ms. Rice. "In fact, they are
often, in societies that are changing, a force for good, for stability and
Ms. Rice says Washington would like to see China build on its recent
progress in human rights by going further.
The United States last week announced it would not sponsor a resolution
condemning China's human rights record at an annual U.N. meeting in Geneva.
Turning to foreign policy matters, Ms. Rice discussed North Korea's
nuclear ambitions and Taiwan.
The secretary says she pressed Chinese leaders to do more to convince
North Korea to return to multi-nation talks. She warned that if Pyongyang
fails to return to negotiations, Washington will have to consider "other
options" to get the North to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. She did
not specify what they might be, but repeated the United States does not
intend to invade North Korea.
On the Taiwan question, Ms. Rice says Beijing needs to reduce tensions,
which flared last week when China's parliament enacted an anti-secession law
giving Beijing a legal basis to attack self-ruled Taiwan if it were to
declare formal independence.
The secretary of state also voiced new concerns over possible plans by
the European Union to lift a weapons embargo that was imposed after the
Chinese government's 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at
"The lifting of the arms embargo, continuing human rights concerns, but
also concerns about the military balance would not be the right signal and
perhaps more importantly, it might actually serve to alter the military
balance in a place where the United States in particular has very strong
security interests," said Ms. Rice. "Because, after all, it is American
forces here in the Pacific that have played the role of security guarantor."
The United States has agreed to defend Taiwan against an attack from the
mainland. U.S. officials fear that if the embargo is lifted, China could use
newly purchased European weapons to attack U.S. forces.