Fri, Mar 11, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chinese arms sales a `threat to peace'

NO JUSTIFICATION Chen said the EU had no reason to lift its arms embargo against China, and that sales of weapons to the autocratic regime posed a threat

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday called on the international community to understand that China poses the greatest obstacle to peace in the Taiwan Strait, and that selling arms to the communist giant is tantamount to encouraging an authoritarian country to attack a democratic one.

"What has introduced uncertainties to cross-strait relations is not the determination of the 23 million people of Taiwan to pursue democracy and freedom, but rather the other side's reluctance to renounce the use of force," Chen said, without naming Beijing's specifically. The president's words come on the heels of China's proposed "anti-secession" legislation.

"The most pragmatic way to deal with cross-strait issues is to bridge the gap in democratic development by expanding the values of democracy and freedom across the Strait, rather than pushing Taiwan further away from China through undemocratic and unpeaceful means," said Chen, who made the remarks in a keynote speech at an American Chamber of Commerce banquet in Taipei last night.

The banquet, held at the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel, was an annual event held by AmCham as a way of expressing its thanks to friends and associates for their cooperation over the past year.

Noting that the EU arms embargo against China was enacted after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 in an attempt to pressure Beijing to improve its human rights record, Chen said China has since done little to meet the EU's demands. He also urged the EU to maintain the embargo to stem China's arms proliferation ambitions.

"It is apparent that all the reasons [for imposing the arms ban against China] still exist," Chen said.

"I don't know how the EU can justify lifting the ban," Chen said while meeting with members of Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a Washington-based think tank.

"China's annual defense budget has been growing at an average of 12 percent for the past 10 years, not to mention the 706 ballistic missiles along its southeastern coast pointed at Taiwan," the president said. Chen added that this was a clear sign that China was not willing to renounce the use of force as an option for resolving cross-strait differences.

"This poses a grave threat to the cross-strait status quo and peace and stability," in the Asia-Pacific region, Chen said.

"If the EU is to go ahead and lift the arms embargo against China, it would be no different from encouraging an undemocratic, non-peaceful country to use force against a democratic one," Chen said

Referring to the recent joint security agreement between the US and Japan in which the two countries declared the Taiwan Strait a "common strategic objective," Chen said the US-Japan alliance would help the two sides of the Taiwan Strait resolve their differences peacefully.

Speaking about Beijing's proposed "anti-secession" law, Chen said "it is regrettable that Beijing is moving to enact legislation that runs completely against this common goal [of maintaining regional peace and stability]."

During his speech, Chen also said he is thankful that trade relations between Taiwan and the US continue to grow. Noting the resumption of bilateral consultations as of last November under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement the president said that the US and Taiwan have a close friendship."

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