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US, Japan thwart China’s bid to end arms embargo by EU: Report

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BEIJING (PTI): China’s bid to get the two decades old arms embargo of the European Union against it lifted appears to have been thwarted by US and Japan as EU officials said that the move has been shelved for the time being due to lack of consensus among member countries.

EU officials termed the speculation of lifting of embargo following heavy lobbying by France and Spain as premature as US and Japan has expressed serious reservations, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Friday.

Speculation was rife in the recent weeks that EU may lift the embargo imposed since 1989 Tiananmen square crackdown against protesters following a charm offensive by Beijing.

A leaked document by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton also called for the EU to "design a way forward", saying the lifting of the embargo on all lethal weapons "could happen very quickly," the Post report said.

But EU officials and member states said there were fresh signs of internal reluctance - as well as a discreet, but forceful lobbying drive by the EU's international partners, Japan and the US, it said.

Japan warned that regional security could be at risk if the ban was ended.

Noriyuki Shikata, a spokesman for Japanese Prime Minister, said any move by EU to lift the embargo carried "important possible implications for Japan and the East Asian security environment".

"We expect the EU to take a cautious and responsible approach," he said.

A US State Department official said that Washington remained opposed to ending the EU's embargo.

"The US remains in close contact with the EU and other European officials on the issue of our respective arms embargoes on China," the official said.

"The US continues to emphasise that the lifting of the arms embargoes is not warranted on either human rights or security grounds," the newspaper quoted the official as saying.

One EU official said there were no concrete plans and acknowledged Japanese and US concern.

"It is something that obviously is looked at and reviewed but it does need consensus among all 27-members of the EU, and it is becoming very clear that that consensus is just not there, nor is there a clear timetable," the Post quoted the official as saying.

In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the embargo "severely affected political trust between the two sides".

"China's position on the lifting of the embargo has been consistent. The EU's embargo was a product from 20 years ago; it has severely affected political trust between two sides, and is completely out of sync with the current comprehensive, strategic partnership between China and the EU," the spokesman said.

He urged the EU "to lift the arms embargo to China immediately and unconditionally, and it will be benefiting [for] Sino-EU relations".

Divisions appeared in EU over arms sales as China wooed some of the EU countries like Spain buying their debt to ease financial crisis.

Last month’s visit to Europe by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang saw Beijing commit to buying a reported six billion pound sterling worth of bonds from a cash-strapped Spain with offer of big contracts to car manufacturers Volkswagen and Daimler.

France also was wooed with hefty orders to buy Airbus planes.

But German Minister of State Cornelia Pieper said last month that Germany welcomed full EU-China normalisation but did not agree to end the embargo now. She gave two conditions - a lasting relaxation of cross-strait tension and sustained improvement in human rights.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said Britain did not think the time was right and noted a lack of consensus in the EU, but it should "rightly remain under review".

Retired PLA general Xu Guangyu said the embargo had helped China stand on its own feet in terms of military technology.

"Our military research and development level would not be so efficient if there was not the arms embargo. We should say 'thank you' to the EU and the US," he said.

Zhang Xiaojing, director of Remin University's Centre for European Studies, said Beijing did not have high expectations that the ban would be lifted.

"Beijing doesn't care about it now as the importance of the move is just like a political judgment or status," he said.

"Actually, we have had some small-scale arms deals with some EU countries through other channels over the past 10 years," he said.

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Arms  China  EU  
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