BEIJING (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged China on Tuesday to press North Korea to disclose its nuclear programs so that a stalled disarmament deal can move forward.
North Korea has promised to abandon all nuclear weapons programs in exchange for economic and diplomatic incentives under an agreement between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States reached in Beijing in 2005.
The deal has been stymied by Pyongyang’s failure to meet an end-2007 deadline to make a “complete and correct” declaration of all its nuclear programs.
“I’m expecting from China what I am expecting from others — that we will use all influence possible with the North Koreans to convey to them it’s time to move forward,” Rice told reporters after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
In addition to North Korea, Rice and Yang discussed efforts to impose new U.N. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, stopping the violence in Sudan’s Darfur region and U.S. concerns about human rights in China and Taiwan.
Rice listed U.S. economic concerns, including the value of China’s currency and its protection of intellectual property. Yang sought to reassure consumers about Chinese exports after a string of U.S. recalls, saying: “Chinese food is safe.”
Finding a way to convince North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test in October 2006, to give up its atomic ambitions is the central subject of Rice’s four-day visit to South Korea, China and Japan.
A senior U.S. official said Rice hoped her Asian trip would act as “a real catalyst to get over this bar of a good declaration” and she particularly wanted help from China, North Korea’s major trading partner and traditional Communist ally.
Yang said Beijing favored intensified diplomacy to overcome the latest setback in the long-running nuclear negotiations and he stressed the challenge of securing agreements with North Korea.
“The Chinese side hopes that the parties will treasure the results we have already produced, which have not come easily, and bear in mind the bigger picture and ... increase the dialogue and consultations among the parties,” Yang said at a joint news conference with Rice.
According to U.S. officials and analysts, the sticking point has been Pyongyang’s reluctance to discuss any nuclear technology it may have transferred to other nations, notably Syria, as well as its suspected pursuit of uranium enrichment.
The United States has questions about any possible North Korean role in a suspected Syrian covert nuclear site that was bombed by Israel in September. Syria has denied having a nuclear program but the case remains murky.
In a concession possibly aimed at defusing a barrage of international criticism surround China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics in August, Yang said China was willing to resume a human rights dialogue with the United States.
China broke off the dialogue in 2004 after Washington urged a U.N. watchdog to condemn what it called China’s backsliding on rights.
Rice was to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao before flying to Tokyo on Wednesday. She began her visit to the region in Seoul, where she attended Monday’s inauguration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
She has no plans to visit Pyongyang, where the New York Philharmonic orchestra will play a concert featuring the works of Antonin Dvorak and George Gershwin on Tuesday.
During their news conference, Yang and Rice bantered about the U.S. presidential election and the Chinese foreign minister teasingly prompted Rice to tell him who would win.
“I am not going to,” Rice replied with a smile. “But now are you going to give me Chinese food?”
“I promise it is not only safe but delicious,” Yang replied in English.
Additional reporting by Lindsay Beck in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson