Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 6 News List

US asks EU to stay firm on China arms sales restrictions

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US on Tuesday renewed calls for the EU to maintain a 15-year-old ban on arms sales to China amid signs the EU embargo may be lifted with Britain's support.

"The United States has repeatedly expressed its concerns to European Union member states regarding possible lifting of the arms embargo against China," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

"In our view, lifting the ban would not contribute to regional stability and would send the wrong signal to China regarding its continued poor human rights record," he said.

Boucher's comments came in a written answer to a question posed at Tuesday's State Department news briefing about a report that Britain, Washington's top European ally, would likely back an anticipated EU move to drop the embargo.

Britain is expected to line up alongside France and Germany in arguing that the restrictions, imposed after the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Bei-jing's Tiananmen Square, should be ended, the Times reported on Tuesday.

In return, Britain is pushing for Beijing to sign an international agreement on human rights, the paper said, citing unnamed senior British officials.

It said London understood the US opposition -- which could lead to European nations that sell arms to China being denied US military technology -- but that it also believed a new EU code of conduct on arms sales would stop weapons being used by China for "external aggression or internal repression."

Earlier this month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) appealed to the EU to lift the arms ban as he visited Brussels as part of a European tour.

The report comes as China ratchets up the pressure against Taiwan. Boucher also repeated a longstanding US warning that China's military buildup against Taiwan was destabilizing.

Those comments came two days after the Pentagon said in a report that Beijing was developing "credible military options" to prevent Taiwan from achieving independence, including tools to discourage the US from coming to Taiwan's aid.

Earlier, China had defended its military build-up as essential to safeguard national sovereignty and accused the Pentagon of having "ulterior motives" and continuing with Cold War thinking.

Cross-strait tensions have been on the rise since 2000, when Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was elected as Taiwan's president.

Asked to reconcile the fact that the US and China were enjoying a warmer relationship and better cooperation with the fact that the US still publicly treats China as a threat, Boucher said that Washington's position had been consistent.

"We have had a very consistent policy of cooperating with China wherever we can, but also being clear about our differences," he said.

"And when it comes to the Taiwan Straits [sic], I think we have very consistent policy supporting peaceful resolution," he said.

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