U.S. Conducting Strategic Consultations in Asia

By Howard Cincotta
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington – Senior U.S. foreign policy officials have been conducting wide-ranging strategic consultations with China, Japan, Korea and other Asian nations in recent weeks and months, according to the State Department.

On November 4, the State Department announced that R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, will participate in the third round of the U.S.-China Senior Dialogue – a forum established by President Bush and President Hu Jintao of China at the 2004 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Santiago, Chile.

"The Senior Dialogue reflects the importance and depth of the U.S.-China relationship," according to the State Department. Burns will hold joint meetings with senior Chinese officials together with Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs Robert Joseph.

Burns also will visit Seoul for the first sub-ministerial session of the U.S.-R.O.K. Strategic Consultations for Allied Partnership (SCAP), which was inaugurated earlier this year by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon. Ban has been selected to become the next secretary-general of the United Nations. (See related article.)

SCAP will address issues of security on the Korean Peninsula as well as broader topics of human rights, regional cooperation, and international relief and peacekeeping operations around the world.

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated that among the topics of Burns’s trip will be the implementation of U.N. Resolution 1718, which imposes international sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear activities, and the prospect of Pyongyang’s return to the Six-Party Talks on its nuclear program. (See related article.)

“We've left that path [of multilateral talks] open and now we've sent two senior diplomats to the region, Nick Burns and Bob Joseph. They will go out and talk about the implementation of Resolution 1718 but also about how to make the six-party talks really fruitful when we go back to the table,” Rice said in an interview with Bloomberg TV November 3. (See related article.)

North Korea announced in late October that it would return to multilateral talks with South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States on its nuclear program.  U.S. officials hope the discussions, officially known as the Six-Party Talks, will resume before the end of 2006. (See related article.)

Burns and Joseph also will travel to Tokyo for discussions on a broad range of regional and global issues with senior Japanese officials.

The press release on Under Secretary Burns' travel to Asia is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information, see The United States and China and The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.