Sat, Feb 19, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Bush to discuss China arms with EU

`REAL CONCERNS' The US president will bring up the EU's plan to remove an arms embargo on China when he goes to Europe next week, one of his top advisors said


President Bush will bring up the European Union's plan to lift its arms embargo to China during his trip to Europe next week, and expects to find a solution to US objections to the move that is "acceptable" to both sides, Bush's new national security advisor, Stephen Hadley said.

At a Washington press briefing in advance of the president's trip, Hadley said Bush has "real concerns" about the EU's intention to lift the arms sales ban.

"He will share those concerns with the Europeans," he said. "They will obviously have a chance to express their views. And he will listen."

Regarding the likely result of the discussions, Hadley said, "since we have a basic common set of overall objectives, I think we'll find a way forward that will be acceptable," he said.

He added that differences between the US and EU on the arms embargo issue "will be approached in a very constructive way."

The comments were in line with those made by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her recent trip to Europe, in which she refrained from publicly expressing opposition to the lifting of the embargo, but instead stressed common US-EU interests in other aspects of their relations with China.

During that trip, Rice stressed that both sides were listening to each other in an effort to understand each other's position. She also said that both sides would hold more negotiations on the issue in coming months.

Since his re-election last November, Bush and his administration have been trying to mend fences with the major European powers, after his administration's dismissive stance toward them during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq strained transatlantic relations.

During her trip, Rice concentrated on Iran and North Korea. The administration is seeking to gain European acceptance of its harder-line views on both countries, despite European scepticism.

The China arms embargo issue has taken a back seat to those US priorities. But the US argues that European arms sales to China would give Beijing sophisticated weaponry that could conceivably be used against US forces in a showdown over Taiwan.

Bush will begin his five-day trip to Europe tomorrow with a stop in Brussels, the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the EU commission. There, he will meet with French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other European leaders and officials.

On Wednesday, he heads to Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, leaving for the Slovak Republic later that day.

There he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday afternoon, before returning to Washington.

It will be Bush's first trip to Europe since his reelection in November. In his press briefing on the trip, Hadley was effusive in describing US-European ties, despite the deep strains that marked Bush's first term as president. The trip "provides a great opportunity for the president to meet with some of America's oldest and closest friends and allies," Hadley said.

"It's also an opportunity ... to affirm the importance of the transatlantic link for dealing with the challenges that America and Europe both face," he said.

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