Wed, Sep 07, 2005 - Page 1 News List

EU determined to lift China arms ban, Javier Solana says


The EU is determined to lift a 16-year-old arms embargo against China but hasn't decided when to do so, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said yesterday.

The US strongly opposes lifting the EU embargo, saying that could threaten Taiwan and US forces in Asia. Solana said EU countries were still debating when and how it might be lifted.

"We want to take a decision that is part of a solution, not part of a problem, and therefore it has to be well explained and understood by everybody," Solana said.

The embargo was imposed after China's leaders sent tanks and troops to crush demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989, killing hundreds and possibly thousands. China has never given a full accounting of the incident.

EU countries led by France and Germany have pushed to lift the arms ban, calling it a historical relic that impedes diplomatic and trade ties with China.

"We think it is part of history, this embargo, but we have to find a manner and the moment in which it can be done without any difficulty, any problem," Solana said.

Solana's comments point to new obstacles to lifting the embargo, including a Chinese law adopted earlier this year authorizing force against Taiwan if it refuses to unify with China.

Critics have long argued the embargo shouldn't be lifted until China allows greater political and religious freedoms for its people.

Meanwhile, Washington has continued to express concern about annual increases in China's military budget. A Pentagon report issued in July said China is determined to project military power beyond Taiwan and is buying new weapon systems from Russia while modernizing its tactics and improving training.

Solana's comments follow a China-EU summit in Beijing on Monday. A joint statement issued afterward said the EU "reaffirmed its willingness to continue to work toward lifting the embargo."

Solana didn't say if Beijing was asked to meet any conditions in return, although in the past he has said China would have to live up to human-rights standards.

However, he reiterated that the embargo, when lifted, would be replaced with a "code of conduct" governing what weapons and technologies could be sold to China and for what purposes.

Solana denied US objections had blocked the embargo's lifting, but indicated Washington's views had been taken into account.

Washington has threatened to retaliate if the ban is lifted by limiting transfers of military technology to European nations.

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