TOKYO, March 19 (Saturday) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will praise Japan for taking on an increasingly global role, implicitly promoting the long-time U.S. ally in a speech on Saturday as a counterbalance to the rising regional influence of China.
In the speech, Rice will unambiguously support Japan's bid to receive a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and propose a global development partnership in which the two big aid donors would coordinate aid objectives and goals, according to administration officials who described its contents late Friday night to reporters on condition of anonymity.
But Rice will also demand that Japan finally end the ban on U.S. beef that has blocked about $1.7 billion in annual exports from the United States to its most lucrative overseas market for beef, the officials said.
Rice, who flew here Friday from Pakistan as part of weeklong tour of Asia, will use the address at Sophia University to stake out her approach to U.S. policy in Asia for the first time since becoming secretary of state. Aides said the address will sketch a vision of a Pacific community, akin to the Atlantic community, one of "openness and choice," rather than closed societies and spheres of influence.
Rice will welcome the rise of a "peaceful and confident China," but she will also bluntly warn China's leaders that their economic prosperity needs to be matched by greater political freedom. Noting that many Asian countries have made the transition to democracy, a senior U.S. official said Rice will say even China "must eventually embrace some form of open and generally representative government if it is to reap the benefits and meet the challenges of a globalizing world."
Rice will also offer noticeably softer language on North Korea, which has refused to return to six-nation talks on ending its nuclear programs because of what it calls the Bush administration's "hostile policy." While Rice will include a description of harsh conditions in North Korea, she will also note that the United States made an offer to settle the dispute last June.
The offer remains on the table, Rice will say, adding that "at the six party talks the North Korean government can find the respect it desires and the assistance it needs if it is willing to make a strategic choice for peace."
But the officials also suggested that U.S. patience with North Korea was running out. One official said Vice President Cheney "said it best" last April when he declared in Shanghai that "time is not necessarily on our side." The official said the North Koreans "have to make a strategic choice, and they have to make it now."
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is one of President Bush's closest allies, and Rice's speech comes as Japan has claimed an increasingly assertive role on the world stage. Recently, the United States and Japan joined in a statement that said Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, was among its security concerns. Japan and South Korea are also involved in a bitter dispute over a cluster of uninhabited islands that have rich fishing areas.
In a sign of their increased global role, Japanese officials plan to press Rice for greater involvement in settling the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a Japanese official said.
The beef ban, imposed nearly two years ago because of a case of mad cow disease in the United States, is one sore point in the relationship. The two governments have agreed to loosen the ban to permit the import of been from cows less than 20 months old, but a government panel has taken months to review the decision. That age limit was set because it is the earliest age at which the Japanese have detected mad cow disease in testing on domestic herds.
Rice will say "the time has come to solve this problem" because "there is a global standard on the science involved," an official said.
While the United States has previously supported Japan as a permanent member of the Security Council, this is "the first time it's been put in a comprehensive policy statement by an American secretary of state," one official said.
Before Bush became president, Rice wrote an article in Foreign Affairs in which she asserted that China would like to alter Asia's strategic balance in its favor. Since then China has used its economic power to spread its influence through Asia.
"We have no problems with a strong, confident, economically powerful China," Rice told reporters as she flew to Tokyo. She said she wrote that article at a time when China's rise was "a new factor in international politics." She said "the prospects are there that we could see this development be positive, not negative. But I don't want to underestimate the challenges in doing so."