Sat, Dec 18, 2010 - Page 1 News List

US pressuring EU on China embargo

NO LET UP:The EU imposed an arms embargo on China, alongside a similar US arms embargo, following the violent suppression of protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

The latest confidential diplomatic cable to be released by the WikiLeaks Web site shows that the US continues to pressure EU countries to maintain their arms embargo against China, and part of the behind-closed-doors argument used by Washington centers on China’s “Anti-Secession” Law authorizing the use of force against Taiwan.

The cable in question was sent on Feb. 17 this year by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to all US ambassadors in EU countries.

It says: “This is an action request for all embassies in EU countries to reiterate our position that the EU should retain its arms embargo on China. Spanish officials, including the Spanish Foreign Minister, signaled a possible review of the arms embargo under Spain’s presidency of the EU.”

The cable goes on to say that while there was no active discussion in Brussels of lifting the embargo, Washington believed it was important to stress that the US remained “firmly opposed to any lifting of the embargo.”

It explained that Spanish ambassador to China Carlos Blasco told Chinese journalists on Jan. 21 that “we hope to intensify talks on lifting the arms embargo.”

Asked to confirm these comments a few days later, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said that his government would be “reviewing the decision” and “weighing the pros and cons” of lifting the embargo.

The EU imposed the arms embargo on China, alongside a similar US arms embargo, following the violent suppression of protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

According to Clinton’s cable, a combination of US “public and private opposition” and the passage of China’s “Anti-Secession” Law authorizing the use of force against Taiwan had been enough in the past to persuade EU governments to maintain the embargo.

The cable instructed ambassadors to register continued US concern and to tell their host countries that the US believed that “lifting the embargo is not warranted, on either human rights or security grounds.”

It said that lifting the embargo “would have serious implications for the security and stability of the Pacific region.”

WikiLeaks has also released a second cable — sent a few days before the Clinton cable.

This time it was from the US embassy in Beijing saying that Spain had given China “the unfortunate impression that there were exploitable differences among EU member states” on the embargo issue.

This cable predicted that the embargo would remain in force “because despite the benefits to Sino-EU relations of lifting the embargo, the consequences from the US and from Europeans angry at China’s human rights record would be too much to ignore.”

The cables are significant in that they reveal the strength of US opposition to the lifting of the embargo at a time when France has taken over the G20 presidency and may be open to pressure from Beijing.

During a three-day state visit to France last month, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) signed US$20 billion in contracts with French companies to buy 102 Airbus planes, to build a nuclear-fuel treatment factory in China and supply uranium over 10 years. Hu backed French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s agenda for the G20 and has said that China will double its annual trade with France to US$80 billion over the next five years.

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