/ 29 June 2008

Rice meets homeless children after China quake

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday met children made homeless by the devastating earthquake that hit south-west China last month and praised the country’s response to the disaster.

Rice offered her support to those who survived the quake, which left 88 000 people dead or missing and up to five million displaced.

”I’ve been tremendously impressed with the recovery, with the resilience of the people,” Rice told journalists after touring the wrecked city of Dujiangyan, near the epicentre.

”It is really a sign of how the human spirit can recover from great devastation.”

Besides touring the city that has suffered up to $7,1-billion in economic damage, Rice visited victims in a make-shift refugee camp and inspected a water purification project.

”It looks like you’re making it like home,” she told quake survivors at the Qinjianjiayuan camp.

”I wish you the very best. You lost so much, but you will recover. You have great spirit.”

When Rice dropped into one classroom, pupil Zhou Yifan, one of 7 000 people in the camp, spoke to her in English saying, ”My pleasure to take a photo with you. I often see you on TV, you are a superstar.”

Rice later arrived in Beijing to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, US and Chinese officials said. Rice will hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Monday.

The United States has joined international relief efforts to fly life-saving supplies to the region where towns and villages were flattened by the 8 magnitude quake.

During her talks with China’s leaders, Rice said she will discuss ways to get China’s close neighbour and ally Burma to accept international aid following a typhoon that slammed the nation in early May.

”It is a contrast,” Rice said. ”The Chinese government and the Chinese people have reached out for help [and] they’ve seen a tremendous response from the international community.”

Meanwhile, Burma’s military sparked global outrage by refusing for weeks to accept significant international aid after being hit by Cyclone Nargis, which left more than 130 000 people dead or missing.

”It has been sad that the Burmese authorities, instead of making possible the international community’s response to their people, that they have put up barriers to that response,” Rice said.

”Many lives could have been saved, perhaps many more can still be saved if we can get that response… this is not a matter of politics.”

Rice was travelling from South Korea as part of an Asian tour that included Japan last week where she attended a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations. – AFP