Tue, Jul 13, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Cross-strait dialogue welcomed: Britain

SHOWING CONCERN The House of Lords' whip said it is up to the people on either side of the Taiwan Strait to decide their future, but worried about political tensions


The United Kingdom would welcome any efforts by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to reduce tensions and to find a mutually acceptable basis for a resumption of peaceful dialogue, a House of Lords spokeswoman on defense, foreign, commonwealth and international development affairs said last week.

Baroness Crawley, government whip in the House of Lords, made the remarks during a debate on UK-Taiwan relations. She was responding to questions raised in the debate about China's military threat to Taiwan and potential conflict between the two sides, according to a transcript of the debate in the House of Lords.

While agreeing that the future of Taiwan is a matter for the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to settle among themselves, Baroness Crawley said: "We would view with extreme concern any recourse to military action."

"We take every suitable opportunity to convey to the Chinese government our strong opposition to the use of force," she added.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester, a Labour Party member who serves as a vice chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Taiwan, pointed out that China now has 500 missiles pointing at targets in Taiwan, and that this military threat would have been a sufficient reason for the EU not to lift its ban on the sale of arms to Beijing.

Lord Russell-Johnston of the Liberal Democratic Party said it was a good thing that Great Britain resisted lifting the EU ban on weapons sales to China. He noted that Beijing has never apologized for the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre that led the EU to introduce the ban.

In reply, Baroness Crawley said the EU is currently conducting a review on its arms embargo on China, and that it would inappropriate for her to comment on the issue before the end of that review.

Lord Faulkner expressed disappointment that the UK government did not follow the lead of the US and Japan in backing Taiwan's application for observer status at the World Health Assembly in May.

He pointed out that Taiwan has made remarkable progress in improving standards of public health and has shared these advances with many developing countries.

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