Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Europe delays lifting China arms embargo

Indeed : delays is the right word.

Perfect timing, right before French president Jacques
Chirac's official visit to Japan. Media speculation on
the Taiwan issue and the "Yieldding to pressure" to US
President by EU officials is absurd. Delay does not
mean cancel. China will get security enforcing
equipments from EU, according to a specific sales
conduct code. China already gets softwares and military
equipments from Israel and Russia.

Re balancing deals?

Japan gets weapons and military equipments from US.
Besides, recent case related to the acquisition of
European made new helicopters by Japanese navy
demonstrates that the Asian market for security is now
widely opened. A pilot does not want to fly a grave but
the right plane with the proper intelligence and
electronics capability. Right?

Quotes :

"Yielding to pressure from President Bush and threats of
retaliation from Congress, the European Union has put
off plans to lift its arms embargo on China this spring
and may not press the issue until next year, American
and European officials said Monday.

The officials said that in addition to American
pressure, European nations have been shaken by the
recent adoption of legislation by the Chinese National
People's Congress authorizing the use of force to stop
Taiwan from seceding. The Chinese action, they said,
jolted France and undercut its moves to end the embargo
before June.

"Europe wants to move forward on the embargo, but the
recent actions by China have made things a lot more
complex," said a senior European official. "The
timeline has become more difficult. The timeline is
going to have to slip."

The embargo was imposed after China's crackdown on
pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989,
and although some countries have eased their
restrictions, it has curbed the supply of weapons to
China while also becoming a major irritant in China's
relations with the West.

A senior State Department official said European
"signals" of a shift in position had been transmitted in
the last few days, most notably by Javier Solana, the
European Union's foreign policy chief, and by a comment
from the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, over the

Mr. Straw said in a television interview in Britain on
Sunday that the problems of lifting the embargo "have
actually got more difficult rather than less difficult,"
and that the Chinese action on Taiwan had created "a
difficult political environment" that had stirred
concern by both conservatives and liberals in Europe.

In Beijing early Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice said Mr. Straw's "sobering comments" reinforced
the United States' continuing concern that lifting the
embargo now would alter the balance of military forces
in the region and undercut American efforts to get China
to improve its human rights record.

Ms. Rice returned from Asia on Monday evening after
several tough comments directed at China and, less
directly, at Europeans. With tensions building in the
Taiwan Strait, she said, and China seeking advanced
technology for its navy, the sale of European equipment
would jeopardize American efforts to secure the area.

"After all, it is American forces here in the Pacific
that have played the role of security guarantor," Ms.
Rice said.

European officials say the European Union will not back
off its commitment, made last December and pressed by
President Jacques Chirac of France, to lift the embargo
at some point, but that doing so now would not be worth
jeopardizing relations with the United States.

American and European officials said internal European
politics had played a role in the timing of the planned
easing of restrictions: Prime Minister Tony Blair of
Britain was willing to go along with the move, but he
did not want it to occur while he serves as president of
the European Union.

The presidency alternates among the union's 25 members
every six months. Mr. Blair, who takes over at the end
of June, could not be seen as defying American wishes on
such a critical issue, those officials said. Some
European and American officials said action on the
embargo would probably wait until next year, after he
has stepped down.

In the past few weeks, Europeans have pressed their case
for lifting the embargo with the administration and with
Congress, arguing that the rules covered lethal weapons
but not the high-tech equipment that the United States
worries about, like equipment that could help China with
its command and control systems and tracking submarines
and ships.

A top European envoy, Annalisa Giannella, was sent by
Mr. Solana to Washington last week to make the case
that Europe would expand a "code of conduct" restricting
such equipment and set up a regime that would be
effectively tighter than the current one. But Ms.
Giannella was said to have persuaded no one, especially
in Congress.

Indeed, administration and European officials say that
Europeans have been taken aback by the ferocity of
Congressional opposition to lifting the embargo, led by
such Republican heavyweights as Senators Ted Stevens of
Alaska and John McCain of Arizona.

Mr. Bush and his top aides have been increasingly vocal
over the last couple of months in their demands that the
arms embargo not be lifted. In addition, President Bush
was reported by administration officials to have told
the Europeans in Februrary that even if he went along
with lifting the embargo, Congress would not. Congress
has been alarmed by Chinese military expansion since the
1990's, when it opposed moves by President Clinton to
expand military sales to the Chinese.

After Ms. Giannella's visit, Congressional leaders
reiterated their opposition to lifting the embargo, in
some cases threatening retaliation by blocking purchases
of European military equipment for American forces.

The senior State Department official noted that Ms.
Giannella "said she was here on a listening mode" and
was "pummeled" on Capitol Hill. "The alarm bells tipped
off Brussels that this wasn't going to work," he said,
referring to the headquarters of the European Union.

President Chirac first proposed lifting the embargo in
late 2003, arguing that it was obsolete. European
diplomats say that France is not so much interested in
selling arms to China as using the possibility of such
sales as a way to sell commercial equipment, from Airbus
planes to computers.

The European Union cannot take any action without a
consensus. Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice have impressed
enough European leaders with their stance that consensus
to move on the embargo is now unlikely.

"You won't see a backing away from the commitment," said
a European official. "But there's no consensus to act
right now."

end of quotes

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