18th Mar 2019

EU fails to sway Bush administration on lifting China arms ban

A high-level European Union delegation has failed to bridge differences with the Bush administration over lifting the 1989 arms embargo on China.

Headed by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana's personal representative on non-proliferation issues, Annalisa Giannella, the delegation on Tuesday (15 March) ended two days of talks in Washington.

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The EU delegation offered tough export controls in exchange for the US accepting the ending of the embargo, but the Bush administration refused to budge, according to reports.

The arms embargo was imposed after a violent crack-down on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The EU insists the embargo is now mainly of symbolic value.

Mrs Giannella's diplomatic mission to Washington came at a very unfortunate moment.

On Monday (14 March) the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China adopted a controversial law authorising an invasion of Taiwan if the island seeks independence.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she hoped the new Chinese law would dissuade Europe from resuming arms sales to China.

"I hope it will remind the Europeans that there are still tensions in the region", she said, speaking to reporters on her plane beginning a six-nation Asian tour.

"It is not a time to end the embargo", she said, according to the New York Times.

EU leaders are, however, expected to agree on lifting the arms ban at their June summit, despite protests from both human rights activists and from Washington.

According to Danish daily Berlingske Tidende, only two EU member states, Denmark and the Czech Republic, back the Bush-line and want to keep the arms embargo.

"If needed Denmark must act alone at the EU level", the Danish Peoples Party’s foreign affairs chief Søren Espersen said.

"There is no doubt that China will respond by putting Danish companies on ice, but we are ready to face such sanctions", he added.

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