Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US may take action over EU arms sales to China

TAIWAN CONCERNS The US president hinted that Washington might take punitive action against the European Union if it lifts its arms-sale embargo

AFP , BRUSSELS

US President George W. Bush voiced "deep concern" on Tuesday at European plans to lift a 15-year arms embargo on China, as it emerged the EU is drafting a plan to try to allay Washington's fears.

"There is deep concern in our country that a transfer of weapons would be a transfer of technology to China which would change the balance of relations in between China and Taiwan," Bush said.

Talks on the issue in Brussels with European leaders had been "constructive and open," he said, but signalled Washington might take punitive steps against the EU if it ends the ban.

Although he said he was open to EU efforts to draw up a plan to make lifting the 15-year-old embargo more palatable to Washington, he added skeptically: "Whether they can or not, we'll see."

The EU imposed the ban on military hardware exports after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

But now the EU wants to lift the embargo with an eye firmly on the booming Chinese economy.

In December, at an EU-China summit in The Hague, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) urged the scrapping of the embargo, calling it a relic of the Cold War.

EU leaders had indicated that the arms embargo was likely to be lifted under the bloc's current Luxembourg president, which ends in June.

But the US says this will give China access to high-tech military know-how and firepower that would threaten Taiwan.

A US Congress resolution passed earlier this month warned that lifting the ban would "place EU security policy in direct conflict with United States security interests and with the security interests of United States' friends and allies in the Asia and Pacific region."

It warned of "limitations and constraints" on government and industrial relations between the US and Europe if the ban is lifted.

French President Jacques Chirac said the ban "is no longer justified" but that it should be lifted "under conditions that Europe and the US define together."

The EU should avoid disagreement with the US over lifting the arms embargo against China while Europe is attempting a raproaochment with the US, Graham Watson, Chairman of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament, was quoted by the Central News Agency (CNA) as saying.

A senior diplomat in Paris told CNA he expected the embargo against China to remain in place in "for a while" as a result of Bush's visit and his expressed concern.

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