Wed, Mar 16, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Beijing plays into US' hands on arms sales ban


Beijing's toughening line on Taiwan gives ammunition to the US in its bid to stop the EU lifting its arms embargo on China, analysts said Monday.

China's National People's Congress earlier adopted an "anti-secession" law which gives its military a "legal" basis to attack Taiwan if the country moves towards independence.

Washington described the move as "unfortunate," while the French foreign ministry said that EU countries were consulting about how to react.

"The Americans will take this opportunity to recall their opposition to a lifting of the EU arms embargo on China," said Adam Ward of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.

In December, the 25 EU heads of government restated their intention of lifting the ban, which was put in place after the crackdown on the democracy movement in the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.

Last month US President George W. Bush used his European tour to put on record his opposition to a lifting of the embargo -- a position shared by the US Congress.

"China's move will give arguments to the United States which can now say -- look, there is another reason not to lift the embargo. There is a new proof that China is a threat to Taiwan," said Jean-Vincent Brisset of the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations.

"The US thinks lifting the embargo would be a blunder on many levels -- because of the human rights situation which still exists in China and in terms of the political signals it would send to Beijing on Taiwan," Ward said.

"There is a unique degree of unanimity in the US on this. They believe the risk of a conflict in the Taiwan Straits is not negligible," he added.

The Europeans see an end to the embargo as a chance to penetrate new parts of the Chinese market and to boost their sales of non-military goods, according to Brisset.

"The Europeans have their eye on the great Chinese market. As for the Chinese, they say: as long as you do not sell us arms, we will not buy your Airbus," Brisset said.

"But the Europeans do not realize what they are doing. Because the Chinese buy very little. They buy samples and manufacture their own counterfeits," he said.

For Yiyi Lu of the British research center Chatham House, "The Americans will of course bring the Chinese vote up at their discussions with the Europeans. They will say it is a new threat."

But the vote "will change little" because it was not a surprise, she said. Brisset agreed.

"This is nothing really new," he said, pointing out that the Chinese Communist party has repeatedly threatened to use force against democratic Taiwan.

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