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LEAD: Rice discusses N. Korea, Taiwan with Chinese leaders.

BEIJING, March 20 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING WITH TALKS BETWEEN RICE AND CHINESE PRESIDENT HU AND PREMIER WEN)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Chinese leaders Sunday to discuss North Korea's nuclear development program and Taiwan, a sensitive topic because of different opinions on China's new anti-secession law that targets the self-ruled island.

Rice flew into Beijing from Seoul in the afternoon and later met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao at the Great Hall of the People. Her two-day stop in Beijing is the last on a whirlwind six-nation Asian tour.

Wen raised Taiwan as a lead-off topic, saying that when he visited the United States in 2003 President George W. Bush ''made clear'' that the United States would support the ''one-China'' policy and oppose Taiwan's independence.

Taiwan is a major Sino-U.S. relations issue, with China calling the island a renegade territory and the United States saying it will honor obligations to Taipei while keeping diplomatic ties with Beijing. The one-China policy is Beijing's proposal that China and Taiwan have but one central government.

The United States and Japan agreed last month to include the Taiwan Strait issue in the scope of their bilateral security cooperation, drawing criticism from China. Washington also blasted China last week for enacting the anti-secession law that would allow military action against Taiwan's independence.

Wen told Rice that the National Anti-Secession Law, enacted last Monday, was designed to curb separatist forces in Taiwan and bring stability to the Taiwan Strait, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China Central Television said Rice pledged that the United States would back the one-China policy.

Rice and Hu talked about North Korea's nuclear development issue but did not mention any specifics, CCTV reported.

China and the United States say they want to restart the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions. The talks stalled in June last year, after three rounds, because of rifts between the United States and North Korea. China, Japan, Russia and South Korea are also participating.

The official China Daily reported Rice's visit may be intended to get the talks restarted.

Rice said Friday en route to Japan from Pakistan that China should apply more pressure on North Korea to return to the six-nation talks.

An Asia-Pacific relations expert said Rice was expected to push China to pressure North Korea back to the six-party process. This would be one of the ''most important'' topics on Rice's platter in China, said Pang Zhongying, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin.

Rice said China has ''an important role to play'' in the talks, CCTV reported.

Other discussion topics have not been made public. Some China analysts believe a decision Thursday to free leading Islamic dissident Rebiya Kadeer from prison on medical parole was to appease Rice and head off a condemnation of China's human rights record at the U.N. Human Rights Commission's annual meeting this year.

A spokesman for the East Turkestan Information Center in Germany said about 37,000 other ethnic Uyghurs are still in Chinese prisons for crimes related to separatism or cultural expression.

Human rights is a perennial thorn in Sino-U.S. relations, as are trade concerns such as tariffs and intellectual property piracy.

In her meeting with Hu, Rice said the United States values its overall relationship with China.

''It is early in my tenure as secretary of state, but I wanted to come here to emphasize how important the United States considers a constructive and growing and deepening relationship with China,'' Rice said.

Rice visited China in 2002 and 2004 as U.S. national security adviser. Bush appointed her secretary of state in November replacing Colin Powell.

Hu agreed that the visit would help Sino-U.S. relations, which are solid on the whole but tempered by Taiwan and certain trade issues.

On Monday, Rice is slated to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Vice Premier Wu Yi and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan. She leaves Beijing for home Monday.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Mar 21, 2005
Words:665
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