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Cheney: Realistic over N. Korea deal

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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday said Washington has a realistic view of recent steps in North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and also expressed concern about China's military buildup.

"We go into this deal with our eyes open," Cheney told members of the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue during a Friday speech in Sydney about the recent agreements with Pyongyang.

"In light of North Korea's missile tests last July, its nuclear test in October and its record of proliferation and human rights abuses, the regime in Pyongyang has much to prove. Yet this agreement represents a first hopeful step toward a better future for the North Korean people."

In an agreement that followed three years of talks, North Korea agreed earlier this month that it would halt its production of plutonium and begin closing down its nuclear program in exchange for $300 million in energy and financial aid. (Full story)

But the former U.S. point man at the United Nations, John Bolton, publicly blasted the deal, saying it would encourage other countries to seek nuclear weapons.

U.S. President George W. Bush said last week that this agreement was different from the 1994 pact that his administration claims Pyongyang violated by trying to develop a uranium enrichment program. In this case, Bush said, North Korea's neighbors -- China, Russia, Japan and South Korea -- are acting in concert with Washington.

Worries about China

Cheney arrived in Australia after talks in Tokyo with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in which China's military rise and its growing clout in the region were high on the agenda.

"Last month's anti-satellite test and China's continued, fast-paced military buildup are less constructive and not consistent with China's stated goal of a peaceful rise," Cheney said. But he said he held out hope China would emerge as "a force for stability and peace in this region."

The Bush administration took office in 2001 with a more confrontational stance toward China than its predecessor, the Clinton administration, had taken. But it relied heavily on Beijing's influence with the Stalinist government in Pyongyang during the North Korean nuclear talks.

Cheney was scheduled to hold talks Friday with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a leading supporter of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The war has been unpopular in Australia, and anti-war demonstrators held protests in Sydney as Cheney spoke. (Full story)

Australia has more than 1,400 troops in and around Iraq, and Cheney was scheduled to meet with members of the country's military Friday. He said the United States and Australia "are determined to prevail in Iraq, because we understand the consequences of failure."

Australia was one of the first nations to commit to the Iraq war, and despite the relatively small number of troops, Howard has been one of the most vocal supporters of the U.S.-led war.

Cheney praised Australian Prime Minister John Howard's commitment to the war, according to news services. The Australian commitment is being increasingly questioned and likely to become an election issue in the country.

"Prime Minister Howard and the nation he serves has never wavered on the war on terror," Cheney said, according to Reuters news service.

Howard -- whose ruling center-right Liberal Party will face Australian voters in October -- wandered into American electoral politics earlier this month by criticizing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's call for a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. He told an Australian television interviewer that "If I was running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory, not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."

Obama, a Democratic presidential hopeful, shot back that if Howard was still "ginned up" about the nearly 4-year-old war, "I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and send them to Iraq."

Reuters contributed to this report.


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Vice President Dick Cheney on North Korea: "We go into this deal with our eyes wide open."

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      IRAQ TROOP NUMBERS

      U.S. 132,000
      UK 7,200
      South Korea 2,300
      Australia 1,400
      Poland 900
      Georgia 800
      Romania 600
      Denmark 460
      Source: Brookings Institution; Jan. 2007

      SPECIAL REPORT

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