EU sticks to ban on arms to China, urging human rights concessions
A EUROPEAN Union ban on arms sales to China will not be lifted after member states failed to reach a consensus yesterday on the proposal, which was strongly criticised by the United States.
Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, said the EU would keep the issue under study and step up negotiations with the US, which says an end to the 15-year European ban on arms sales will create more instability in East Asia. Officials said privately the issue may well be put off until at least 2006.
The embargo was imposed after the Chinese military crushed student protests on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Britain, which opposed the lifting of the ban, will hold the EU presidency in the second half of 2005 and is not expected to push for a decision.
Before the EU meeting, Mr Fischer said ending the ban depended largely "on movement by Beijing, especially on the question of human rights and a peaceful resolution" of its conflict with Taiwan.
The arms embargo has put transatlantic relations under renewed strain, with the US expressing concern after China adopted a law authorising military action against Taiwan if the island declared independence.
Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden want to retain the arms ban, while Germany and France have long urged fellow EU members to lift the embargo.
Diplomatic sources acknowledged there were differences within the EU, but added that China had complicated matters by not ratifying the United Nations’ Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and by adopting an aggressive tone against Taiwan.
But Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU external relations commissioner, said she was concerned the arms ban dispute was starting to overshadow the EU’s overall fast-growing trade relationship with China.
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