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Rice says China must not become a negative force

Written by: Staff

Melbourne, Mar 11: The United States and its Asia-Pacific allies must work with China to ensure that its economic and military rise does not become a 'negative force', US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said.

Speaking ahead of a trip to Australia that will include trilateral talks between the United States, Japan and Australia, Rice said all three needed to watch the pace and extent of China's military buildup.

''I think that is something that is concerning, particularly for those of us that had a responsibility for defending the peace in the Asia-Pacific region, of which I would count all three,'' The Australian newspaper reported Rice as saying today.

''And I think all of us in the region, particularly those of us who are long-standing allies, have a joint responsibility and obligation to try and produce conditions in which the rise of China will be a positive force in international politics, not a negative force,'' she said.

Rice spoke in Washington to journalists from Australia, Indonesia, Peru and Chile, countries which she will visit in the coming week.

Rice said the Asia-Pacific region was in ''tremendous flux and change'' because of the rise of the world's most populous nation.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday China should allay the fears of neighbours about its ''opaque'' military buildup by taking steps towards nuclear disarmament, strictly controlling exports of missile technologies and disclosing military data.

China's 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army is the world's largest standing military force. Its official defence budget will rise 14.7 per cent to 283.8 billion yuan in 2006, Beijing has said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who will attend the trilateral talks in Australia, caused a diplomatic flap last December when he said China's military buildup was a threat because of its lack of transparency.

China's rise will be a central part of the trilateral talks, The Australian quoted Rice as saying.

China has become the world's third-largest trading nation and has cemented its place as the workshop of the world after its accession to the World Trade Organisation in late 2001.

With its economic rise continuing, Rice warned that China must respect issues such as intellectual property rights on things such as computer software.

''The last thing that we need is a very, very big Chinese economy that is operating outside the rules of the international economy,'' Rice said.

She also said the jury was still out on how China might manage a democratic transition to democracy.

''That's why it is a challenge, but it's an opportunity ...

when you have a billion-plus people who are as active and dynamic as Chinese people and an economy that has the potential to be a real driver of economic growth in the international system, that's an opportunity,'' she said.


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