Rice heats up N. Korean rhetoric

Monday, March 21, 2005 Posted: 8:36 PM EST (0136 GMT)

BEIJING, China -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said if efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program fail, Washington and the international community will pursue "other ways."

CNN's Stan Grant in Beijing said Rice's heated rhetoric during a news conference is a clear sign the United States is running out of patience with the Stalinist state.

The Secretary of State gave her strongest hint to date that the U.S. was prepared to use other measures -- possibly seeking international sanctions at the United Nations should the talks fail.

"Obviously, everyone is aware of the other options in the international system," Rice told a news conference in Beijing.

"Of course if we cannot find a way to resolve the North Korean issue in this way (through six-party talks), then we will have to find other means to do it."

Rice, who met Chinese leaders during the final leg of her six-nation Asian tour, also asked Beijing for more help in bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table.

"We need to resolve this issue, it cannot go on forever," Rice had told a news conference Sunday.

The United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and China began a joint diplomatic effort with North Korea in 2003 aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program, but it has been stalled since North Korea refused to attend the last scheduled round of talks in September.

Last month, Pyongyang declared it had nuclear weapons and would indefinitely continue its boycott.

"They (North Korea) have a problem if they continue down this road," Rice told the news conference in Beijing.

However, Rice repeatedly emphasized during her visit to China that the United States does not intend to attack North Korea.

She also reiterated that Washington will not enter direct talks with North Korea as it has demanded.

The major issue of Taiwan-Chinese relations was also raised, with Rice saying that while Washington supports the One China policy, Beijing's recent anti-succession laws had destabilized the region and created tensions across the strait.

Rice urged China to deal with the issue, saying that Washington would not sit by and watch any side take unilateral action that upsets the status quo, Grant reported.

On Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Rice that he hoped she would understand and respect China's decision to pass the anti-secession bill, saying it was an internal matter for China.

Europe warning

Rice suggested that European governments are irresponsible if they sell sophisticated weaponry to China that might one day be used against U.S. forces in the Pacific.

"It is the United States, not Europe, that is defending the Pacific," Rice said.

South Korea, Japan and the United States are all Pacific powers and all contribute resources to keep the Asia-Pacific region stable, Rice said.

The European Union may soon lift an arms embargo on China that was imposed after the deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

Lifting the embargo would allow sale of technology and weapons that China badly wants to modernize its creaky military. China has recently gone on a military spending spree that Rice said concerns the United States.

"The European Union should do nothing to contribute," to the possibility that Chinese forces might turn European technology on Americans, Rice said.

Earlier Sunday, Rice extolled the virtues of free and open societies at a news conference with Internet journalists, after security guards wrestled a man to ground as he loudly called for American intervention to free the communist North.

"Miss Rice, the North Korean people are dying and they are crying for your help," yelled the activist, German physician and former aid worker Norbert Vollertsen. He held up a poster that read, "Freedom for North Korea: 50 Years Overdue," until an embassy employee ripped it in half.

As Rice took her seat for the conference, security officers were literally muffling Vollertsen as they wrestled him to the floor. He had talked his way into the media gathering before Rice arrived, but an embassy public affairs officer recognized him at the last moment and demanded he be removed.

Speaking to that group, Rice described true democracy as the ability to "say what you wish, worship as you please and educate your children."

In contrast to the closed society of North Korea, Rice said, "you can come here and think what you want and ask me anything -- the United States secretary of state -- and what a wonderful thing that is."

Command center

On Saturday, Rice became the most senior American official to tour a command center for U.S. and South Korean troops that would be the battle headquarters in the event of fighting with the communist North.

"I know that you face a close-in threat every day," Rice told troops at Command Post Tango, or Theater Air Naval Ground Operations, late Saturday.

Rice's visit coincided with a twice-yearly war exercise involving thousands of American and South Korean soldiers. When Rice got a look at the command center, it also was the first time that reporters and cameras were allowed into the bunker south of Seoul.

"The Republic of Korea, a great democracy now, faces a threat across the divide of a state that is not democratic, that is not free, and that does not have the best interests of its people at heart," Rice said, referring to South Korea by its official name.

North Korea has denounced the exercises as a rehearsal for a U.S.-led pre-emptive attack.