Rice Warns Europe on Weapons to China

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) suggested Sunday 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 (search)," Rice said. She spoke in Seoul, the penultimate stop on her weeklong tour of Asia.

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 (search) that was imposed after the deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square (search). 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 (search) should do nothing to contribute," to the possibility that Chinese forces might turn European technology on Americans, Rice said after meetings with the South Korean president and foreign minister.

Rice has earlier said that China's recent statements about a possible invasion of Taiwan should give the Europeans pause. China passed a law this month codifying its intention to use military force against Taiwan should the island declare formal independence.

Rice said she would raise U.S. objections to the Taiwan development with Chinese officials in two days of talks, along with long-standing concerns over Chinese human rights practices and violations of intellectual property rights.

Rice will also ask China for more help to persuade communist North Korea (search) to return to international nuclear disarmament talks.

Soon after arriving in Beijing, Rice attended the evening Palm Sunday service at Gangwashi Christian Church. The assistant pastor welcomed the secretary to the service. She did not speak.

The Pyongyang government of Kim Jong Il announced last month what the United States has long suspected: It has already built at least one nuclear weapon.

The United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and China began a joint diplomatic effort with North Korea last year aimed at persuading the country to give up its nuclear program.

But those six-nation talks, hosted by China, stalled in September, when the North Koreans pulled out and refused to return to the discussions.

In Seoul, Rice conducted an unusual press conference with Korean Internet reporters. The event, meant to highlight the freewheeling nature of computer communication in an open democracy, got off to a bad start when American security guards tackled a peace activist as he shouted to get Rice's attention.

"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 a State Department employee ripped the poster in half.

As Rice took her seat for the news conference, security officers literally muffled Vollertsen while wrestling him to the carpeted floor. He had talked his way into the event before Rice arrived, but a U.S. Embassy public affairs officer recognized him at the last moment and demanded he be removed.

In replies to the Korean journalists, Rice described true democracy as the ability to "say what you wish, worship as you please and educate your children, boys and girls."

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."