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Rice Begins China Trip With Visit To Quake Zone

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits a makeshift school in China's Sichuan Province
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised China's post-earthquake recovery efforts as she began a two-day trip with a visit to the disaster zone before heading to Beijing for talks expected to focus on North Korea's nuclear program.

Rice arrived on June 29 in Chengdu, capital of China's Sichuan Province, where a May 12 earthquake left 88,000 people dead or missing and up to 5 million displaced.

The United States has joined international efforts to provide assistance to the region where towns and villages were flattened by the 8.0 magnitude quake.

'Impressive' Recovery

After touring the wrecked city of Dujiangyan, Rice said she was "tremendously impressed" with the recovery.

"It is really a sign of how the human spirit can overcome great devastation," she said. "Even if we are here among people who are rebuilding their lives we remember of course the many people who lost their lives, including the children who lost their lives. And they will always be remembered. But it is good to see that people are recovering and they are going on with their lives."

In the course of her tour, Rice also visited a refugee camp and inspected a water-purification project.

Rice said Chinese efforts contrasted with those of Myanmar's ruling junta, which faced international criticism following the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in early May for failing to speed aid to survivors and initially barring foreign aid workers from the hardest-hit areas. The cyclone left more than 130,000 people dead or missing.

"[Myanmar's] authorities have, instead of making possible the international community's response to their people, put up barriers to that response," Rice said. "And we are all trying to encourage [Myanmar] to allow us to help the people there."

North Korea On Agenda

Rice, the most senior U.S. official to visit China since the earthquake, later headed to Beijing to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. She is to hold talks with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on June 30.

The meetings are expected to focus on North Korea's destruction of its nuclear reactor cooling tower at the Yongbyon facility on June 27, and what the next step should be.

The move came one day after North Korea handed over to China a long-awaited report on its past nuclear activities.

Speaking in Japan on June 27, Rice said there are still several unresolved issues concerning Pyongyang's nuclear activities.

"That will not be the end of the story," Rice said. "We also must deal with proliferation. We must deal with highly enriched uranium. We must verifiably end all of North Korea's program."

Rice has also been under pressure to raise human rights and Tibet during her two-day visit to China.