Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 2 News List

EU may delay lifting China arms sale ban

SECURITY Given that several states are still against the plan, the EU will likely need more time to reach consensus on the issue, several panelists at a US symposium said


The EU probably will defer until next year its plan to drop its Tiananmen-era embargo on arms sales to China, as the union wrestles with ways to strengthen its Code of Conduct dealing with arms sales sales worldwide, expert panelists at a symposium in Washington said on Tuesday.

Any decision to lift the embargo has to be by unanimous consensus, noted David Shambaugh, head of the China Policy Program at George Washington University's School of International Affairs.

`Holding Out'

At least six EU member states -- the Nordic Countries, Ireland and Poland, however, are "holding out," which is sufficient to block a lifting of the embargo, he said.

In addition to the Netherlands, Germany and the European Parliament have recently issued strong resolutions against lifting the embargo.

Shambaugh said that the question has become a domestic issue in several countries.

"These are democracies, after all," he said.

Dieter Dettke, a former German parliamentarian and foreign ministry official, agreed with Shambaugh. He said it would "take some time" for all the countries to agree to end the ban on China arms sales, which Beijing would certainly use against Taiwan or against a US force sent to the area to defend Taiwan in case of a military attack by China.


However, another panelist, Robin Niblett from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, based in Washington, disagreed. He said he felt the odds are 65-35 that the embargo would be lifted this year, saying the countries are working "day in and day out" to work out a way to lift the ban.

In any event, some panelists wondered whether the lifting of the ban would have as big an impact as some seem to think. The embargo itself is voluntary, and there has been a substantial amount of "leakage" since the it was imposed in 1989 in the wake of the Tiananmen massacre.

EU already selling

Dettke said that last year, 2.7 percent of China's arms imports came from the EU. And Richard Fisher, vice president of the International Strategy and Assessment Center and a recognized expert on China's military, outlined a long list of advanced military technology various EU countries have provided to China in recent years.

Panelists urged US President George W. Bush, whose administration is strongly supportive of the embargo, to urge EU nations to retain it during his upcoming trip to Europe.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also expected to bring up the issue during a trip to Europe this week, in which she will visit seven capitals.

Code of Conduct

All panelists agreed that before the ban is eliminated, the EU should strengthen the Code of Conduct on international arms sales adopted after Tiananmen. That code is voluntary and needs to be changed to clarify what arms and technology cannot be sold to China, they said.

Deliberations in Europe on the code center on eight new criteria for the transfer of arms and technology. Three of these would be of particular interest to Taiwan, Shambaugh said.

These are human rights, commitments to the regional security environment and the national security of allied states -- mainly the US.

In order to assure controls on the sales by member states of arms and military technology to China, Dettka said, the Code of Conduct must be made binding on all EU nations.

What remains unclear, however, is whether the European countries would have the will to accomplish this, the panelists seemed to indicate.

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