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Rice to Arrive in Seoul July 12
Rice Plans to Visit Seoul on 4 Nation Asian Trip
North Korea's Nulcear Program to Be Discussed
By David Stout
Ms. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state of the US State Department

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2005 — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit four Asian countries from Friday through the following Wednesday, July 13, to discuss North Korea's nuclear program and other issues, the State Department announced today. Ms. Rice will travel to China, South Korea, Japan and Thailand, said a department spokesman, Sean McCormack.

"During her stops in each country, Secretary Rice will meet with senior government officials for discussions of political and economic issues of bilateral concern, as well as global and regional matters of mutual interest such as the North Korean nuclear issue, cooperation of fighting terrorism and transnational crimes, and tsunami recovery and reconstruction efforts," Mr. McCormack said.

The issue of North Korea's nuclear ambitions would appear to be the most significant item on the agenda, given that country's recent signal that it was ready to resume negotiations as soon as this month, provided that the United States treat it with respect.

North Korea walked away from the six-nation talks more than a year ago. How to persuade, or pressure, the country to return to the table is sure to be discussed on Ms. Rice's trip, especially when she confers with Chinese leaders. The United States has been urging China to use its leverage to press North Korea to return to the talks, perhaps with punitive measures.

But the Chinese have been urging a friendlier approach, calling on the United States to offer North Korea more incentives to sit down at the table. The Bush administration has said it has already offered enough incentives and will not offer more. The administration has also repeatedly rejected North Korean pressure for one-on-one talks with Washington.

The six-party talks over North Korea's nuclear program involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. South Korea, like China, has argued that more incentives are needed to lure the North Koreans back to the talks. South Korea and China have also urged Washington to tone down some of its language about the North.

North Korea's signal that it is ready to resume negotiations came through Chung Dong Young, South Korea's minister of unification, upon his return to Seoul on June 17 after a visit to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.

"The North's leader, King Jong Il, said if the United States firmly recognizes North Korea as a partner and respects it, North Korea can return to six-party talks, even in July," Mr. Chung said.

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