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Rice to Set Tune for US Ties with Asia

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will embark on her first trip to Asia as the top US diplomat on Monday to set the tune for the US relations with Asia in President George W. Bush's second term.  

The trip will take Rice to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Japan, the Republic of Korea and China from March 14-21. She has already visited Europe and the Middle East since she was appointed as the US secretary of state in January this year.


The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue will be a major topic during her talks in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing.


According to US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, Rice will review with Asian leaders US diplomatic efforts to convene the next round of six-party talks.


Three rounds of the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, which involved China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the United States, the Republic of Korea, Russia and Japan, have been held in Beijing since August 2003, serving as a channel for all concerned parties to solve the nuclear issue through dialogue and cooperation.


During her stay in Beijing, Rice will also exchange views with Chinese leaders on bilateral ties.


In announcing Rice's upcoming visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan expressed the hope that China and the United States would increase mutual understanding, expand consensus and reduce disputes, in a bid to push forward the China-US strategic partnership.


In Tokyo, Rice is due to give a speech about Asia's role in the world and is expected to raise the issue of Japan's import ban on US beef, US officials said.


Last week Bush called on Japan to lift the import ban during his telephone talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.


In India, her first stop in the weeklong visit, and Pakistan, Rice is expected to encourage early peace overtures between the two countries that have long faced off over the disputed region of Kashmir.


Rice's trip to South Asia "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," Boucher said.


Pakistani officials, however, have noted that Rice is not expected to carry any specific solution to the dispute in South Asia and Kashmir.


Rice will also travel to Kabul to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss ways the United States can help ensure successful parliamentary elections this year.


(Xinhua News Agency March 15, 2005)

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