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EU Firm on Ending China Arms Embargo

The European Union is determined to lift its 15-year ban on arms sales to China and does not expect any retaliation from Washington when it does so, a top official said on Saturday.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Reuters in an interview a delegation of European officials due in Washington in the coming week would seek to ease fears an end to the ban could alter the balance of power in East Asia.

President Bush has voiced concerns that the end of the embargo could skew the military balance between China and Taiwan. Lawmakers in Washington have also threatened to curtail defense cooperation with Europe if it proceeds.

"Of course there are some concerns on the American side, but I have never heard the word retaliation," Ferrero-Waldner said.

"We feel that China is a partner today, an important partner, and we don't want to treat China like Zimbabwe or some other country," she said during a visit to Jakarta.

But with China planning to raise defense spending, and on Tuesday outlining a bill permitting the use of force to head off any independence bids from Taiwan, the EU move will be a tough sell to the United States.

Ferrero-Waldner said Europe was not seeking to boost arms exports and did not believe that lifting the embargo would mean a rush of European military technology into China.

"I think it's more about the quality of the arms exports and I think it is a matter also of ... which high technology should be in there and (which) should not be in there," she said.

"We don't want to increase our arms exports. What we want is to really have one instrument, because now we have two. We have an arms embargo and we have a code of conduct," she said.

"What we say is we will severely restrict the code of conduct and therefore we don't need two instruments."

Rights groups say the EU's existing code of conduct on arms sales is not legally binding and contains loopholes.

A revised code, due to be agreed in coming weeks, requires EU states to look hard before granting licenses, as well as its history of passing on imported equipment to third countries.

(China Daily via agencies March 14, 2005)


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