Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 3 News List

US senators urge Bush to pressure EU

ARMS BAN Senators asked the US president to press the EU to retain its embargo on arms sales to Beijing, as part of their call for an overall US plan to deal with China's rise

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Expressing concern over a recent "dramatic shift" in the cross-strait military balance in favor of China, the US Senate has unanimously approved a measure urging the Bush administration to pressure Europe to maintain its arms embargo on China and "discourage" foreign companies from selling sensitive military items to Beijing.

The measure, adopted quietly this past week, is part of a proposal that calls on Bush to establish an overall plan to counter China's economic and military rise in East Asia in view of recent economic conflicts between Beijing and Washington, and China's break-neck military buildup.

The measure seeks to implement a number of proposals presented earlier this month by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a blue-ribbon congressionally established panel, that expressed concern over China's newfound economic and military power in East Asia, and faulted the administration for failing to develop a comprehensive national security plan to deal with a rising China.

Among other things, the commission's report called for closer military and political ties between Washington and Taipei, including the exchange of high-level visits, and criticized the pan-blue forces in the Legislative Yuan for blocking the major arms sales package the Bush administration offered in 2001.

The Senate approved the measure on Tuesday as an amendment to a bill that authorizes defense department programs for the fiscal year 2006, which begins Oct. 1.

The approval came just two days before the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging the EU to retain the arms embargo, saying the reason for its existence -- Beijing's abysmal human rights record and the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre -- has not changed.

The US Senate vote, however, does not assure that the proposal will become law. As worded, it is non-binding, expressing only the "sense of Congress."

It is not included in a parallel defense authorization bill that was approved earlier by the House of Representatives.

The two versions will now go to a joint conference committee, where it could be jettisoned by the House conferees. However, in the past, it has been the House that has been willing to approve such provisions, with the Senate rejecting them, which should improve the chances of the measure winning final congressional approval.

The bill urges "actions by the president and secretaries of state and defense to press strongly their European Union counterparts to maintain the EU arms embargo on China."

It also urges the administration to act "to discourage foreign defense contractors from selling sensitive military use technology or weapons systems to China."

It also calls for an annual administration report to Congress on the nature and scope of foreign military sales to China, particularly by Russia and Israel.

"China is developing a leading-edge military with the objective of intimidating Taiwan and deterring United States involvement in the Strait, and China's qualitative and quantitative military advancements have already resulted in a dramatic shift in the cross-strait military balance toward China," the bill says.

It also cites the approval by China's National People's Congress of the "Anti-Secession" Law in March.

The law codifies the legality of the use of military force if Beijing feels that Taipei is going too far toward independence. Passage of the law by Beijing was seen as one of the main reasons that the EU dropped plans last summer to lift the embargo.

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