April 4, 2005
CHINA DEVELOPMENTS FORCE EU TO 'RECONSIDER' LIFTING ARMS EMBARGO
** Europe has newfound reservations about lifting the weapons embargo on China.
** France and Germany have "pushed hard for an end to the EU ban."
** Anti-secession law creates a "growing uneasiness" about lifting the embargo.
** Outlets fear that "China will divide the Atlantic."
'Growing doubts' over lifting of weapons embargo-- Liberal Euro papers agreed that European leaders are "having second thoughts about...ending the arms embargo." Conservative Euro papers asserted that "lack of principle is written all over EU dealings with China," and that since the embargo was enacted in 1989, "nothing decisive has changed" in China's human rights policy. Hong Kong's mass-circulation Apple News Daily opposed lifting the ban because of China's "human rights situation." China's official Global Times claimed that ending the embargo would strengthen the "China-EU strategic partnership." Other PRC papers criticized American "hegemony" and the "opposition...from Washington and Tokyo."
'Germany and France in particular' support end of embargo-- Euro media observed that "Germany and France are becoming increasingly isolated with their demand to lift the arms embargo." Critical Euro papers claimed that "all they apparently care about is selling more goods to China" and urged the two countries to "rethink" their positions. Germany's right-of-center Die Welt stated that Schroeder's goal appears to be a "confrontation with the U.S.," and that "Germany will pay a high price" for the policy. Japan's moderate Yomiuri was skeptical of Chirac's claim that lifting the ban was "merely a 'political' message to Beijing" and warned, "Beijing's further military buildup could threaten world stability."
China's anti-secession law a 'critical new factor'-- Global outlets agreed that the legislation "changes the status quo and deprives the Europeans of their argument to lift the arms embargo." Euro dailies said the law proved what China "wants to do if Taiwan secedes" and asked, "Does Europe really want to ship high-tech weapons to Beijing?" They also noted that the law caused "concern" and "embarrassment" in Europe. China's official People's Daily stated that the lifting of the embargo should not be affected by the law because "the Taiwan issue relates to China's internal affairs, and other countries have no right to interfere."
Dispute over China could exacerbate 'transatlantic rift'-- Euro dailies opined that the growing dispute over China "is threatening to turn into a substantial transatlantic conflict." Italy's center-left Il Riformista argued that "it will not be easy to reconcile the two China concepts of the United States and Europe" and that if a consensus is not reached, China "will divide the Atlantic." A Czech writer declared that the weapons embargo issue "is not worth a new transatlantic dispute," and a Swedish writer asserted that "improved transatlantic relations...largely depend on China." Official Chinese observers urged the EU not to cave in to U.S. pressure and argued that lifting the embargo "should be the EU’s own business."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: David Meyers
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 36 reports from 14 countries over 14 March - 2 April, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Arms For China"
An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian argued (3/23): "European leaders appear to be having second thoughts about the wisdom of ending the arms embargo they imposed on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. The US was known to be unhappy with this prospect. Just how unhappy has been made clear by Condoleezza Rice on her Asian tour. Proving the old point that timing is all in politics. It is fair to complain that the US should be tougher with its Russian and Israeli allies, selling China the fighters and submarines it cannot yet make itself. But with Chinese human rights groups still protesting that no one has ever been held accountable for the Tiananmen killings, Europe should carry on thinking hard - and keep the ban in place."
"Arms And The EU"
An editorial in the conservative Daily Telegraph asserted (3/23): "The European Union has been both unprincipled and inept over its arms embargo on China.... The fact that the sacrifice of principles to supposed commercial gain has caught the EU between the rock of China and the hard place of America. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington is committed to the island's defense.... Lack of principle is written all over EU dealings with China. On the arms embargo, it has also proved inept."
FRANCE: "Controversy Over An Embargo"
Jean-Jacques Mevel stated in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/17): “Taiwan's President is trying to place the debate where it will hurt China the most while using Washington's arguments.... In his words, the new Chinese law unilaterally changes the status quo and deprives the Europeans of their argument to lift the arms embargo.... Chen Shui-bian is taking pleasure in turning the tables on Chirac, using the same words the French President had used when visiting Beijing. This time the aggressor is China, and Chen is taking his revenge by asking Europe to maintain the arms embargo… Secretary Rice, who is touring the region, has seized the opportunity to reiterate that China's law should convince those who might want to sell weapons to the new emerging power… On the European side, the Chinese anti-secession law is causing some embarrassment. A new transatlantic controversy could delay Europe's lifting of the embargo.... American diplomacy is close to accusing Paris and its allies of being irresponsible in the Far East.”
GERMANY: "EU Should Postpone The Issue Of The Arms Embargo"
Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau noted (4/2): "The EU should postpone the issue of the arms embargo in view of the still difficult human rights situation in China and due to open threats against Taiwan when its leader will convene in June for their summit. All indications are that this will be the case. That is why it is all the more questionable that the chancellor, for the benefit of [German] trade and industry and President Chirac, is now massively violating the democratic custom that the government 'even though it is formally alone responsible' for foreign policy, has never acted against the explicit will of parliament. It is now up to the Bundestag to make the next political move. Schroeder provoked it. If the people's representatives, the Red-Green one in particular, are taking themselves seriously, they must at least reconfirm their decision from the fall that set the conditions for the imposition of the embargo. And these requirements have not been met."
Christoph Schwennicke argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung (4/1): "If not all indications are wrong, Chancellor Schroeder is fighting a losing battle with his China policy. We can estimate that the Bundestag with a 90 percent majority is opposed to him. That is why Schroeder's insistence on lifting the arms embargo on China gets defiant traits. And we wonder whether he has overlooked certain aspects when analyzing the situation.... But Schroeder is not interested in selling German weapons as soon as possible to China. He is interested in totally different markets. He sees dams, railways and power plants, and he considers foreign policy mainly foreign trade policy.... Seen from this angle, his support for ending the arms embargo on China could be based on the following calculation: Even if I fail for the time being, China sees who supports its matters elsewhere. This will be repaid in contracts, irrespective of the outcome [of the current dispute]…."
"Schroeder Seeks To Hold Americans In Check"
Hans-Juergen Maurus commented on regional radio station Südwestrundfunk of Stuttgart (3/31): "There are three reasons why the chancellor risks new trouble not only with the opposition but also in his own ranks and with his coalition partner. First, his relations with China, like his personal relationship with President Putin, seem to be a matter dear to his heart. Schroeder wants to expand economic relations with Beijing.... Second, the chancellor, known for his erratic actions, promised the Chinese the end of the embargo.... Schroeder now has to stick by his word.... And third, in addition to the partnership with Russia, Schroeder is now openly striving for a strategic partnership with China to force the United States to act multilaterally, or, to put it differently, to hold the Americans in check. The last reason is probably the most important and most dangerous one. It is one thing that a German chancellor wants to redefine transatlantic relations, but the fact that Schroeder has greater confidence in a former KGB man than in a U.S. president and is toadying to a coming communist superpower is worrying."
"Faithful Solo Run"
Michael Stuermer commented in right-of-center Die Welt (3/31): "Until today, trade with China flourished without advanced weapons systems. Therefore, the motive cannot be the promotion of trade, but it appears to be an intended confrontation with the U.S., which tries to sustain stability in the Far East - remember Beijing's war threats against Taiwan. U.S. Congress sees the lifting of the weapons embargo as a small European declaration of war and will retaliate with trade restrictions. In addition, the common European foreign and security policy, which was just put together again after the Iraq war, will be torn into pieces. Does the Chancellor really believe that the new Chinese axis will help him to get a seat in the UN Security Council? He has the wrong advisors. Germany will pay a high price for this megalomaniac policy."
Arno Widmann observed in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (3/31): "Speaking off the record, Schroeder tells supporters of the lifting of the weapons embargo on China that he only wants to be able to export weapons but that he is not interested in doing it. That sounds clever, but it is only cunning. The people he tells this do not believe him. Americans do not believe him at all in this case, but he unnecessarily annoys them with his China policy. If he really meant what he says, the Chinese would not believe him and insist on the export of tanks and missiles. Who would Schroeder follow if it came to the crunch? Would he really go hand-in-hand with Wen Jiabao against the U.S., the German parliament, parts of his own party and his coalition partner? He should keep this faithfulness for a more solemn goal."
Peter Sturm judged in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/29): "Chirac said the arms embargo that was imposed on China in 1989 is no longer in keeping with the times. For him it is no argument that he is positioning himself against the United States. And the fact that he overheard the arguments of his Japanese hosts in his own way can be explained only with ignorance. Since 1989, nothing decisive has changed. If the decision on the embargo was right at the time, then it will not be wrong today. Of course, China wants to see the embargo lifted. But since when does the EU submissively meet China's requests? If Jacques Chirac were an isolated politician, we could live with his idiosyncrasies. But he also speaks for the German chancellor."
"Power, Moral, And Money"
Christian Wernicke opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/23): "Let's use as an example Gerhard Schroeder Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair. For months the three most important EU leaders--and their 22 partners in Brussels--are faced with a matter of conscience: Should the EU lift its arms embargo on the autocrats in China. Sixteen years after the massacre on Tiananmen Square, this would be the great gesture, which the Red emperors in Beijing have called for for a long time. Their chances are not bad, for as a reward of this very demonstrative 'normalization' of relations, China promises exactly what the governments of the Old World urgently need: contracts worth billions of euros that create thousands of jobs in Europe. That is why the whole matter has an unpleasant taste. Human rights activists and moralists of all political and religious denominations are rightfully warning [against such a step], saying Europe should not sacrifice its principles for profit reasons, since credible reports of Chinese dissidents or organizations like amnesty international do not offer any indication that the situation in Beijing's penal colonies or re-education camps have improved an inch.... As long as China does not turn to the better, there is no reason to turn around a right and decent EU policy. If Europe now bowed to China, it would overstretch itself.... There are certainly some Europeans who would brush aside the U.S. policy as being hypocritical when George W. Bush and Congress are now calling upon China to show respect for human rights and international law...but such arrogance will not help as soon as America uses strategic arguments. China, the future global power is modernizing its army with a breathtaking pace. This worries not only Americans but also frightens the Pacific democracies in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. And with the anti-secession law, Beijing clearly said what it wants to do if Taiwan secedes.... Does Europe really want to ship high-tech weapons to Beijing to [attack Taiwan]?"
"No Longer Keeping With The Times"
Clemens Wergin judged in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/23): "The situation for Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac is getting problematic. When China is now threatening Taiwan with war… Germany and France are becoming increasingly isolated with their demand to lift the arms embargo on China. All indications are that the EU wants to postpone this decision until next year. They do this, too, to be spared from trouble with the government and Congress in Washington. It was mainly Tony Blair, who will take over the EU presidency in July, who does not want a transatlantic rift during his term. A postponement is also better for the Red-Green coalition in Berlin, since there is considerable resistance among Greens and SPD parliamentarians…. But even this year, not too much will change in the security policy arguments that speak against lifting the embargo. It is very unlikely that the next People's Congress will withdraw the anti-secession law that is directed against Taiwan. For the EU giants France and Germany, it is disgraceful that smaller EU states like Belgium and Sweden had to remind them that Europe has to take over global policy responsibility in Asia, too. Now the governments in Berlin and Paris will have some time to rethink their own positions."
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/18): "The EU is apparently determined to lift the weapons embargo on China. It does not care much about the strategic consequences in the region and it tries to counter U.S. concerns by playing tactical games. It is clear why the Europeans do this: The lifting of the weapons embargo is supposed to propel commercial business. They might actually fall for the communist leaders' tricks. Beijing tries to attract Europeans with poisoned lures, telling them that a quick end of the embargo would be an act of political wisdom and bravery. That is wrong, Mister Foreign Minster Li Zhaoxing! It is the other way around. It would be a serious mistake if Europe supports China's armament program, a country that would like to militarily attack the democratic island of Taiwan. That Europe does not consider this reflects immaturity."
"No Weapons For China"
Michael Stürmer stated in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/18): "Chancellor Schroeder and Foreign Minister Fischer should appreciate the parliamentarians' criticism, because they offer both leaders an opportunity to change their policy without loosing their faces. The other EU governments should also use the opposition of the European Parliament in the same way and reconsider their relations with China. Weapons exports should not become a part of their policy. They should not just focus on China's thriving economy and business deals, but they must take into account that China is a superpower in Asia and the Pacific. One of the most important tasks in international policy of the coming years will be to peacefully integrate China, the world's rising superpower, into the global market and international order. Europeans should not undermine this process, which would lead to serious tensions with America and inside Europe."
"Meanwhile In Asia"
Clemens Wergin commented in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/14): "The EU ambition to lift the weapons embargo on China, once imposed after the massacre at the Tiananmen Square in 1989, is threatening to turn into a substantial transatlantic conflict.... It is indeed difficult to understand why Europeans, Germany and France in particular, are pushing for an end of the embargo. All they apparently care about is selling more goods to China.... Given that China's National Peoples' Congress approves the anti-secession law today, which threatens Taiwan with war if it declares independence, there is no guarantee that China's rise remains peaceful. The nationalistic propaganda is causing turmoil in a region, which enjoyed permanent economic growth thanks to the stabilizing role the U.S. played there for decades. It is clear that the future development of Asia and the export results of the West depend on the continuing stabilizing U.S. role. America does therefore not understand the plans of the EU. Under the worst-case scenario, Europe modernizes an army that would fight against U.S. soldiers in a military conflict over Taiwan.... Europe has learned little from its history. Like Germany and Italy at the end of the 19th century, today's China is a developing nation that is looking for its place in the already established international system.... The rise of China is not an arbitrary issue, but probably the most important geo-strategic question of the next 50 years. Those who cannot think of more than rewarding China's threats against Taiwan by lifting the embargo are ignoring their responsibility for world politics."
ITALY: "China Will Soon Divide The Atlantic If Europe And The U.S. Fail To Agree"
Marta Dassu commented in elite, center-left Il Riformista (3/29): “Whatever the final compromise may be, the debate over the weapons embargo against China is only the superficial aspect of a deepest asymmetry: America looks to East Asia through the lenses of its military commitments to Taiwan or South Korea; Europe has no direct commitments and, from a U.S. point of view, ‘benefits from’ Asian security without producing it. Furthermore, U.S. and European perceptions of China in general are different. Seen from Washington, China is a superpower ‘in progress,’ that may become the only competitor of the Western world.... Seen from Brussels, China is mainly a major economic-trade partner, a growing but ‘economics-first’ power and, therefore, necessarily interested in joining the multilateral system in a responsible fashion. The risks, in sum, are on the competitiveness side and not on the military side.... In any case, the logic with which superpowers are moving reflects only in part the international vision of the European Union (economic integration seen as common security). It will not be easy to reconcile the two China concepts of the United States and Europe. And nobody can yet predict for sure what kind of ‘power’ China will end up becoming. But one thing is certain: if the United States and Europe fail to agree on how to handle China's rise, it will be China that will divide the Atlantic.”
"China, Europe Reconsiders Embargo, ‘Best Not To Abolish It Now’"
Federico Rampini wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/23): “During her flight back to Washington, Condoleezza Rice began to savor her first important victory since she took office at the State Department. Her campaign to convince the Europeans not to lift the arms embargo on China was successful.... Rice had an unexpected ally: the Chinese leadership. The growing uneasiness among Europeans was not caused solely by unrelenting American pressure. It was also the result of … the anti-secession law passed on March 14 by the Popular Congress in Beijing.... The law created concern.”
"Arms To China, EU Reconsiders Lifting [Embargo]"
Alberto Pasolini Zanelli noted in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (3/23): “The European Union may delay by one year plans to lift the arms embargo on China.... The Bush Administration has been applying continuing pressure on its European allies over the last few days, which was supported by Congress’ practically unanimous vote last month, threatening the Europeans with economic retaliation in case the ban was lifted.”
"EU Yields On Wolfowitz And China"
Enrico Brivio opined in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (3/23): “The EU...sent two reassuring political signs to its re-discovered American friend George W. Bush: it did not put obstacles on the road that should lead the ‘neo-con’ Wolfowitz to the World Bank presidency and it agreed to ‘pause and reflect’ before deciding to end the arms embargo on China.”
"Rice Rebukes Europe--‘No Arms to China’"
Giampaolo Pioli wrote in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (3/21): “She embraced a sumo wrestler in Japan. In Beijing she visited a Protestant church before meeting with Communist authorities. Condoleezza Rice’s first trip to the Orient is awash in conciliatory imagery and firm messages.... The U.S. Secretary of State's visit to Beijing has another significance: to lay the groundwork and set the agenda for Bush's upcoming mission in November, which is destined to revive U.S.-China relations -- which have cooled due to the war in Iraq, and last week's vote on the anti-secession law that threatens Taiwan.... Rice understands that her trip to Beijing is not only sensitive but also full of uncertainty, and that the Chinese government will continue to negotiate all types of flexibility in return for commercial concessions.”
AUSTRIA: "Europe's Kowtow Before China"
Foreign editor for mass-circulation provincial Kleine Zeitung Ernst Heinrich opined (4/1): "Apparently, there are many top European politicians - among them Austria's EU Commissioner for Foreign Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner - who are unruffled by the fact that the People's Republic of China has only developed economically since the Tiananmen massacre 16 years ago. Democracy and human rights remain provocative terms for the strongmen in Beijing. China was and still is a brutal dictatorship that suppresses any political protests, oppresses whole ethnic groups - the Tibetans for instance - and openly threatens Taiwan, which has developed into a democratic society, with war. However, Schroeder, Chirac and all the other European democrats only care about doing good business with the dictators."
Foreign affairs writer for independent Der Standard Markus Bernath commented (4/1): "The argument put forward by Germany's Chancellor Schroeder and his fellow heads of government in the EU, including France's President Jacques Chirac, can be summed up in a nutshell: China in 2005 is no longer what it was in 1989 when the army tanks rolled at Tiananmen That argument has a certain logical justification but does not stand up to strict examination with regard to certain central issues - such as China's human rights situation, development of a constitutional state, passing on of military technology, and predictability of foreign policy. Beijing is still Beijing and the official communist leadership is still prepared to pay any price to maintain its control over the one-party state. A more sensible argument would be to say: We are going to replace the 16-year old weapons embargo with a more modern, flexible but stricter system of rules for export controls within the EU. And with regard to sensitive weapons exports, we will consult with the US - perhaps within the framework of a transatlantic body still to be created. In the eyes of European weapons conglomerate EADS, whose representatives in Beijing are already getting impatient, such a decision would not exactly be a hit. However, it would be more honest and safer for China's neighbors. After all, Beijing has drawn up a wish list that gives grounds for concern: stealth technology, spy satellites, submarine engines, jet engines."
"Resist The Bait"
Deputy Chief Editor Viktor Hermann concluded in independent Salzburger Nachrichten (3/24): "One could almost feel sorry for Javier Solana. The tone he adopted when he called the EU weapons embargo against China 'unjust,' sounded like whining. Solana, France's President Jacques Chirac, and the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are alone in their demand for lifting the embargo on the grounds that it is outdated.... The preconditions for a lift of the weapons embargo have simply not been fulfilled. In many regions of the world, weapons trade serves to pour oil onto the flames of conflict. Many a crisis is being fanned through the weapons industry's dirty business deals. Those responsible for this are to be found in Europe as well as in the US, and in many emerging countries. European politicians in particular are claiming to fight for peaceful solutions of conflicts. However, this means that they must not give in to the lobbies of those that produce and trade in weapons--not even if the bait is big business deals with the economically growing China."
"China Will Determine Asia's Future"
EU Commissioner for Foreign Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner wrote in centrist Die Presse (3/21): "As a consequence of China's gradual but noticeable reform dynamics, the EU has indicated its willingness for a further opening. This includes the intention, expressed by the European Council of the heads of state and government in December 2004, to exchange the not-legally-binding EU weapons embargo for a new and more efficient code of conduct - with strict criteria regarding the political situation of the receiving country and the security and stability of the region. All exports are being monitored by the EU states. It is not the intention of the EU to change the strategic balance within the region - neither in quantitative nor in qualitative terms.... Through dialogue and political incentives we can support reform in China, and that is in everybody's interest - that of the people who live in the region and beyond. In this context, we can expect clear signals on the part of China with regard to an improvement of its human rights situation."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "China, Weapons, And Childish Europe"
Milan Vodicka claimed in leading centrist MF Dnes (3/24): "The attempt to lift the ban on weapon exports to China is a typical example of Europe wanting to show its adulthood but acting very child-like.... As if on purpose, the Europeans chose to prove their maturity and independence by one of the most foolish means at their disposal. It is even a worse idea than supplying police truncheons to Belarus.... Europe and America have drifted apart a lot over Iraq, and now they are only slowly drawing near again.... It is not really love, only recognition of mutual necessity.... The EU has now postponed a final decision on the Chinese embargo...which is not worth a new trans-Atlantic dispute."
"Embargo And Rise Of China"
Martin Hala commented in business-oriented Hospodarske Noviny (3/15): "In its own interest Europe should demand that China, following its [not only economic] rise, will set off on the road of responsibility and peaceful cooperation, which Europe envisages in its concept of strategic partnership. Specifically, the EU could contribute to this goal by conditioning the annulment of its arms embargo on China's renunciation of the use of force in its relations with Taiwan. And if the EU finally decided for some diplomatic activity, it could right away add the demand for the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed many years ago, but never inserted it into its legal system."
"The EU Will Lose Profit In Embargo Cancellation"
Michael Romancov maintained in business-oriented Hospodarske Noviny (3/14): "One of the controversial issues during President Bush's European Tour was the decision of the EU to cancel the China arms embargo that Washington still supports. Who will profit from this trade? The EU is the biggest trade bloc in the world, but its foreign and security policies seem ineffective for now. It is no wonder that the EU is considered as a "supermarket" and not a "superpower". Since 1949 China has behaved very aggressively. In last two decades it calmed down and oriented itself towards "peaceful co-existence". Despite this, China still does not hesitate to use violence... Why the EU has decided to cancel the embargo, is not understandable. China today is one of the most powerful countries in Asia and is not threatened directly by any of its neighbors. The countries in the neighborhood of China are not in the same situation. The only country in Asia, which is able to provide effective security guarantees, is the U.S. The only direct effect of European arms deliveries to China will be the anxiety of all neighbors. The next effect will be the strengthening of the power-role of the U.S. in this exposed region. Generally, this decision is not very profitable, and is politically wrong, because it props up the strongest, non-democratic country."
IRELAND: "EU Facing Foreign Policy Choices"
The center-left Irish Times stated (3/28): “Lifting the arms sales ban on China has been on the EU agenda for the last couple of years, coinciding with hugely increased trade and investment which has made the EU China's largest economic partner in the world this year. France, Germany and Britain have supported lifting the ban, although other EU states have expressed reservations about continuing human rights violations and sharply increased Chinese arms expenditures. The move has come up against more and more US pressure not to proceed. And a critical new factor has now been introduced following the passing of an anti-secession law at the Chinese National People's Congress earlier this month. It is directed against Taiwan, where pro-independence sentiment has been growing, despite the continuing care of its leaders not to provoke China unnecessarily.... Members of the US Congress are furious over EU plans to lift the arms embargo. It could lead to greater tension across the Taiwan Straits, pitting US weapons potentially against EU ones. These new facts argue for greater care about lifting the ban until such safeguards are in place.”
"Ireland Continues To Support Lifting Of EU Arms Embargo On China"
Mark Brennock and Clifford Coonan opined in the center-left Irish Times (3/23): “Ireland continues to support the lifting of a 15-year EU ban on selling arms to China, despite growing doubts about the wisdom of an early change in policy. Beijing yesterday urged the EU to stick to its plan to lift the arms ban, saying it should not be delayed by fears over a new Chinese law authorizing the invasion of Taiwan if the island pursues independence. Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said last night the Government did not think it appropriate to continue with the embargo, because of the continuing improvement in EU-China relations. He said President Bush had told the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) last week of the strong US opposition to lifting the embargo. He also acknowledged that China's renewed warnings to Taiwan against secession had not helped Beijing's case.... Overall the EU seems to have bowed to strong pressure from Washington, and signaled it was reconsidering its plan to lift the arms ban, imposed after the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Chinese are furious that the ban looks set to stay in place because of the law, known as the anti-secession law, which was passed by China's annual parliament on March 14th. It gives Beijing a unilateral legal basis to use military force against Taiwan should the island declare formal independence. The Chinese insist the legislation is aimed at peaceful reunification and containing Taiwan separatist forces, but Washington has successfully used the law to lobby its European allies to delay lifting the ban.... As trade ties between China and France and Germany flourish, both countries have pushed hard for an end to the EU ban. However, Washington has aggressively argued to keep the ban in place, saying it raised the prospect of European arms being used against American troops if the US was ever forced to defend Taiwan against an attack from the mainland. The US, while banning arms sales to China, is Taiwan's main armorer. Even though Washington has been making strenuous efforts to rebuild relations with the EU strained by the war in Iraq, it has refused to budge on this issue. Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said in Beijing at the weekend the EU ‘should do nothing’ to alter the military balance of power in Asia. Dr. Rice has also expressed concern about China's military build-up--its defense budget will increase by 11.6 per cent this year.”
SWEDEN: "An Embargo That Is Kept Track Of In The U.S."
Independent, liberal Stockholm-based Dagens Nyheter argued (3/23): “Actually the matter is quite simple. The EU member states should not sell arms to dictatorships, to countries violating basic human rights, to countries that may use the weapons against their own citizens, and to countries that openly threaten to use military force. The EU should not, to be brief, sell weapons to China.... After a few weeks of travel within the U.S., it has become evident to me that China is high on the foreign policy agenda. What Beijing is doing, and not doing, is closely watched in Washington. It is even said that the improved transatlantic relations resulting from President George W. Bush's charm offensive in Europe, largely depend on China. With regards to the Mideast and Iran, the EU and the U.S. can pull in the same direction. But China, and not least of all the arms embargo, is the real stumbling-block. The message now seems to have been noted overseas. The EU state and government heads do not seem prepared to allow the issue of the arms embargo to jeopardize future U.S.-EU relations.... And this is, after all, a small cost to pay for the EU. Selling arms to China should under no circumstances have been an alternative.”
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: “Obstacles To Sino-U.S. Ties”
The official English-language China Daily declared (3/30): “EU members reached a consensus at a summit in December that the bloc would lift its 16-year-old arms embargo on China by the end of June this year, and have made a big effort to achieve this goal since. However, it seems it might not become a reality because of opposition and pressure from Washington and Tokyo.... The EU's arms ban on China is a relic of the Cold War, and has been a big obstacle in the China-EU relationship. The EU's decision to lift the ban is out of consideration for strengthening bilateral ties and promoting world peace and development. US opposition to the move reflects, once again, its hegemonism in international affairs.”
"The U.S. And Japan Should Not Be Obstacles"
Zhang Jinjiang commented in official People's Daily (Renmin Ribao) (3/28): “Lifting the arms embargo undoubtedly has benefits for both China and the EU, and also for world peace and development. U.S. arbitrary interference on this issue is another manifestation of its hegemony. The Taiwan issue relates to China's internal affairs, and other countries have no right to interfere. Recently the EU president and some leaders of the main member countries expressed their determination to lift the sanction--it is the general trend to do so. The U.S. and Japan should not be obstacles to the development of EU-China relations.”
“What Difficulties Does The EU Face In Lifting Arms Embargo Against China?”
Zhang Niansheng, Shi Xiaohu, Liu Aicheng and Song Wen commented in official international Global Times (3/25): “Notwithstanding some recent reports in the western media, the EU’s attitude on lifting the arms embargo on China has not changed. France and Germany still strongly support lifting the ban. The UK is vague, and some North European countries are rather conservative. However, the increasing economic strength of China makes the EU’s powerful countries realize that maintaining an arms embargo is not beneficial for the long-term development of the China-EU strategic partnership.... The EU is doing some hand-wringing again on the arms embargo. This reflects the notion that the EU common diplomacy is still weak. The U.S. is making an all-out effort to prevent the EU from lifting the ban – this should be the EU’s own business. The arms embargo issue shows that EU still has difficulty distancing itself from the U.S. in international affairs.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "It's Not The Time To Lift The Ban On Weapons Sales"
Mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News remarked (3/25): "After China passed the anti-secession law, the European Union has differences on whether to lift the ban on weapons sale to China or not. Germany and France insist on lifting the ban this year. However, some of the members of the European Union have reservations. They think that the decision of lifting weapons sale ban should be reconsidered.... We believe this since the human rights situation in China has not yet greatly improved and the Chinese government has not yet taken responsibility for suppressing the democratic movement cruelly. Besides, cross-strait relations are undergoing a very sensitive and fragile moment. Hence, there is no reason for the European Union to lift the weapons sale ban on China at this moment. If the European Union sticks obstinately to its own decision and lift the ban this year, it will only deliver a wrong signal to the Chinese government, increase cross-strait instability and increase the risk of an arms race in the Taiwan Strait. Such a decision is harmful rather than beneficial."
TAIWAN: "The EU Arms Embargo Will Be Called Off In Time"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language China Post (3/30) stated: "The EU arms embargo will be called off in time. A delay is irritating but not unbearable. It will go because France, Germany, Britain and others in Europe are eager to tap the world's biggest and seemingly insatiable market on the mainland, especially for advanced weaponry and high-end technology, and build an early strategic partnership with the emerging Asia-Pacific superpower of the new world."
JAPAN: "EU Lifting Of Arms Export Ban On China Unacceptable"
Top-circulation moderate Yomiuri editorialized (3/28): "French President Chirac has explained to Prime Minister Koizumi that the planned lifting of EU embargo on arms sales to China is merely a 'political' message to Beijing and that exports of sensitive weapons would be under strict EU control. However, China has the will and resources to increase its purchase of weapons. Beijing's military development has also been criticized for its lack transparency. Europe's plan to relax its arms trade is of a great concern to the U.S. and Japan. The EU move would likely help China modernize and enhance its military capability. Europe should suspend its plans because Beijing's further military buildup could threaten world stability."
CANADA: “No Arms For China”
The centrist Winnipeg Free Press editorialized (3/23): “American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got a nice little bonus Monday as she was leaving China.... The bonus, rather, came from Europe, which both Ms Rice and her boss, President George Bush, visited sequentially this year. They urged the European Union then to reconsider its plan to end the arms embargo that was imposed on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. The Europeans originally gave that request an even cooler reception than the Chinese this week gave Ms Rice's entreaties over North Korea. On Monday, however, shortly after Ms Rice departed Beijing, the EU announced that it had postponed its plans to lift the arms embargo. This turnabout appears to have been influenced by two factors. One is European alarm over China's decision to enact legislation authorizing the invasion of Taiwan if the country were to formally declare independence from Mainland China. The second is the impact that Ms Rice and Mr. Bush had on their European visits, particularly, perhaps, the impression that Ms Rice made in the continental centers of power. Since she became secretary of state Ms Rice has made two important trips abroad - to Europe and to Asia. Both are attempts to show the world that there is a new mood in the White House. Mr. Bush has not changed his strategy but he has changed his tactics to reassure U.S. allies in Europe and to defuse the suspicion of emerging Asian powers. Mr. Bush himself is unlikely to win friends or influence people - dislike and distrust of him, rational or not, runs deep. Ms Rice, however, made a strongly favorable impression on the Europeans and the arms embargo remains in place. She may have made an equally strong if not quite so favorable impression in China. She unequivocally drew attention to China's repression of religious freedom and urged it to move more quickly towards democracy. It is, she said publicly, possible to be 'principled with the Chinese about human rights and to carry on a constructive dialogue about other issues.' China's leaders don't like to hear that kind of talk, but they do understand it. It is the kind of talk that might make them decide soon to revisit the issue of North Korea. That might mean another bonus for the secretary of state--and her boss."
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