Thu, Nov 10, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US warns EU again over arms embargo

MILITARY TIES A senior State Department official said that the EU could face trade sanctions if it lifts its ban. The US, however, aims to boost military links with China

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON , WITH AFP IN HONG KONG

The US has issued a stern warning to the EU not to lift its embargo on arms sales to Beijing, as Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) arrived in London at the beginning of a three-nation tour in which he plans to make lifting the embargo a "top priority," according to China's state-run media.

The warning was delivered by Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs John Hillen in a speech before the 18th Global Trade Controls Conference in London last week. The State Department has just released the text of his remarks.

Hillen, the department's top official for international security and defense trade, said that the EU could find itself faced with tough military trade sanctions from the US if it lifts the embargo.

NO DOUBTS

"I want to leave our European friends in no doubt that if the EU lifts its embargo on China, this will raise a major obstacle to future US defense cooperation with Europe," he said, arguing that if the embargo is lifted, Congress would impose such sanctions.

"There is no doubt as to the strength of congressional feelings on this issue. I think we can count on it: should the EU lift its embargo, the US Congress will legislate," he said.

However, whether Congress would do that is still uncertain. An effort to penalize the EU should the embargo be lifted failed in the House of Representative in July, when a business lobbying juggernaut convinced more than 100 members who had voted in favor of the penalties to change their vote at the last minute, killing the measure.

That legislation would have required the president to impose an array of penalties for at least two years against any EU nation or firm which persisted in selling China major weapons that could be used in connection with an attack on Taiwan.

Washington is especially concerned that the weapons and technology would be used against US forces coming to Taiwan's aid in the case of an attack.

BUSINESS OPPOSITION

Business groups, headed by the US Chamber of Commerce and such big China suppliers as the Boeing Co, would be expected to mount as strong an effort to defeat any future penalizing legislation.

Hillen welcomed the EU's efforts to strengthen its code of conduct on arms sales, which some in Europe see as an effective alternative to the embargo.

However,, he said, "we do not believe that even a strengthened code of conduct is an adequate substitute for the EU's China arms embargo," or would prevent a "qualitative or quantitative increase in EU arms transfer to China."

Hu's trip is part of an effort to rebuild EU-Chinese relations strained by the arms embargo issue. The EU was scheduled to lift the ban last summer, but China's passage of its "Anti-Secession" Law and strong US pressure to retain the embargo, convinced the EU to keep the ban in place.

The embargo was imposed after the 1989 Tienamen Square Massacre to protest China's civil-rights record.

After visiting Europe, Hu will attend the APEC summit in South Korea and then will play host to US President George Bush in Beijing next week.

US-CHINA TIES

Hu and Bush will endorse a full-scale resumption of exchanges between their countries' militaries during their Beijing talks, the South China Morning Post said yesterday.

Citing unnamed sources, the Post said the leaders will back talks between their governments and militaries to explore the possibility of sending observers to take part in each other's military exercises.

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