NEW DELHI – China's (search) new law authorizing military force against Taiwan (search) could make Europe think twice about selling new weaponry to the Chinese, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday.
Rice, in Asia for talks this week, also said she will not let North Korea (search) play the United States and its allies against each other in an attempt to hang onto its nuclear weapons (search) program.
She has a long agenda in Beijing later this week, a visit made more delicate by China's decision to codify a threat to attack Taiwan if the island declares independence. The Bush administration criticized the move, and Rice said she will discuss it with Chinese leaders.
Rice said the law may make European nations reconsider resuming weapons sales that were suspended after the deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square (search). So far, the United States has been unable to persuade the European Union (search) to continue the embargo, despite a major diplomatic offensive from Rice.
The Bush administration says more and better weaponry for China would upset the region's security balance, and could mean the United States might face improved Chinese firepower if forced to defend Taiwan from a mainland attack.
"The Europeans ... know very well our views on the arms embargo (search), that this is not a time to end the arms embargo," Rice told reporters en route to India, first stop on her one-week trip. "I would hope it would at least remind the Europeans that there are still serious security issues in this region."
Rice may use her visits to India and Pakistan to discuss new sales of F-16 fighter planes to the neighboring, rival countries. They have fought three wars since their 1947 independence from Britain. A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no announcement of new weapons sales was expected during the trip.
The United States has built solid relationships with both countries, in part because of their cooperation in the war on terrorism, Rice said. That "has helped the two states to have good relations with each other."
Rice will make her first trip to Afghanistan before stops in East Asia, and said she will raise U.S. demands for democratic or human rights reforms at every stop, including Beijing.
Taiwan and China split in 1949, but Beijing considers the democratic, self-ruled island to be Chinese territory. Beijing has threatened repeatedly to attack if Taiwan tries to make its de facto independence permanent.
China insisted Tuesday that its new law is meant to promote peaceful unification, but Rice said, "It's our responsibility to say to both the parties that unilateral moves that increase tensions are really not helpful."
Any outbreak of hostilities could ensnare the United States, which is Taiwan's biggest arms supplier and is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act (search) to help Taiwan defend itself. There are 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan and 35,000 in South Korea. Under Washington's one-China policy, the United States has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognizes Beijing as China's sole government.
As for North Korea, Rice blamed the destitute country for its diplomatic isolation, and said international diplomacy remains the best way to persuade it to give up nuclear ambitions.
"The six-party framework is the best and most reliable way to deal with the North Korean program, because it has all of the important neighbors at the table," Rice said. "What the North Koreans would like is to get into a bilateral discussion with the United States so that one by one they can cut separate deals on this issue, and we're not going to allow them to do it."
The six-way talks included the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, plus the North Koreans. North Korea pulled out of the talks, announced last month that is has already built a nuclear weapon and denounced the United States.
Christopher Hill, the top U.S. negotiator to the six-way talks, said Tuesday in Washington that the stalemate "can't go on forever. We need to see some progress here and if we don't, we need to look at other ways to deal with this because there is one option that is not available to us and that is to walk away from this problem."
Hill spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was considering his nomination as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. He said China, as host of the talks, "should make sure they get everybody to the table," but has not yet been able to do so. China is North Korea's biggest aid donor but says it has little influence over North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il.