Thu, Mar 24, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Lifting weapons ban on China could spark Asian arms race

By Per Ahlmark

When European unification was launched, it was thought that "ever closer union" would establish a community that would protect Europeans from political blackmail. Now we see -- though the lifting of the EU's arms embargo may now be delayed thanks to US pressure and Chinese aggressiveness -- that the EU has become merely a tool for corruption when France and China draw up joint action plans.

The strategy is simple and ruthless. The world's largest dictatorship is preparing to crush and occupy the first Chinese democracy in history -- Taiwan. In order to do so, the People's Republic of China needs much more sophisticated arms than those it possesses today.

The US naturally does not export such arms to China. Instead, the US is trying to deter China's rulers from launching a military attack on the democratic Taiwan. But if the EU ever begins to offer China extensive exports of powerful and offensive weapons systems, the military power of the People's Liberation Army would be able to defeat Taiwan's defense forces. Over 600 missiles, already deployed in southern China, are aimed at cities and military bases on Taiwan.

The threat is more apparent than real -- for now. Russia currently sells certain arms to China, but avoids exporting its most sophisticated systems, since the Kremlin views China as a potential future threat. However, if EU countries start competing for a share of the Chinese market, the Russians could soon be tempted to sell their best arms to the communist regime in Beijing.

China's new armaments, together with the North Korean crisis, will probably force half a dozen countries in the region to renew their armed forces. Thus, by whenever the union should decide to lift its ban on weapons exports to China, the EU could help fuel an arms race in East Asia.

How did China and France manage to fool the EU into thinking that it should ever take part in this? When French President Jacques Chirac's government decided to expound its economic cooperation with China, arms became an important component in the strategy. Just as a ruthless then prime minister Chirac sold a nuclear reactor to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the 1970's, so the President Chirac of today is being lured into doing big business with another aggressive dictatorship.

The rest is a question of economic blackmail. French diplomats have of course informed China about the reluctance of other European countries about lifting the arms embargo, which was imposed after the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. China then simply threatened to abandon or never to conclude trade deals with these EU members.

To the Germans, the Chinese probably murmur something about Siemens and Volkswagen. To the Dutch their whispers are most likely about Philips. China follows the power game within the EU through its French friends, and therefore knows which governments need to be whipped into line. In Sweden, it has probably been enough to whisper "Ericsson" and "Volvo" to make Primer Minister Goeran Persson understand what is at stake for his country commercially.

What European nation, indeed, dares to put at risk a Chinese order for several billion euros?

Typically enough, no EU-country has mentioned Taiwan as a reason not to resume arms exports. Instead, the EU talks of a "code of conduct" (which probably does not mean very much, but sounds nice) and "free trade" (another charming euphemism for arms exports to dictatorships).

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