Wednesday

27th Jul 2016

Japan: Ashton was wrong on China arms ban

  • Typhoon off Japan. Tensions between Japan and China have flared up over the past year (Photo: Nasa)

A recent proposal by EU high representative Catherine Ashton to lift the bloc's arms embargo on China was a "mistake" which caused great "concern" in Japan, a senior Japanese diplomat has said.

The issue is among several priority topics which Japan plans to raise at the upcoming EU-Japan summit on 28 May, together with slow progress in starting free trade talks and Europe's "disproportionate" import restrictions following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Ashton presented EU leaders with a policy paper at a summit in Brussels last December, in which she described the EU arms embargo with China as a "major impediment for developing stronger" co-operation.

EU members subsequently rejected the proposal to end the EU's ban on the sale of arms to China, put in place following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. But Japan fears the plan is still sitting on Ashton's desk.

"I don't think she has dropped the idea, that's why we want to strengthen our relationship with the EU. The US understands the danger, as they will be the first in line if something happens in Taiwan," ambassador Norio Maruyama told EUobserver in an interview on Wednesday (18 May).

Japan and the US currently have a close security arrangement, while the US has pledged to defend Taiwan in case of an attack, an island which China claims as its own.

"We have had a lot of bad experiences with the build up of China's military and the opacity of its military budget," Maruyama added. "An end to the arms embargo would be a mistake, it would destabilise the situation in the region."

Sino-Japanese tensions have grown over the past year. A diplomatic row between the two sides erupted last autumn when a Chinese fishing trawler collided with two Japanese patrol boats in waters near uninhabited islands in the East China sea, known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan.

The islands, which both sides claim to be their sovereign territory, are potentially rich in natural resources.

Fukushima and free trade

Japan's nuclear accident following the devastating earthquake on 11 March and subsequent tsunami will also feature prominently on the agenda of the bilateral EU-Japan summit later this month.

In the weeks that followed, European member states lent assistance to the Japanese rescue operation, while EU leaders inserted a reference to the "potential launch" of trade negotiations in the final statement of their summit on 24-25 March.

Japan would like to see greater progress however, and is perturbed by what it perceives as an excessive list of EU demands prior to the start of talks. "The EU wants Japan to show a sign prior to the negotiations ... but we can not show you all our cards before the game starts," a second Japanese diplomat told this website.

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht has said it is normal for a "scoping" exercise to be carried out before the start of free trade talks.

"The condition for starting trade talks with Japan is Japan's willingness to tackle difficult issues that hold back trade - such as non-tariff barriers and restrictions on public purchasing rules," De Gucht said last week.

EU import restrictions on Japanese goods have also raised concerns in Tokyo, where officials fear the reputational damage to Japanese food products could long outlast the return to normal radiation levels.

The EU has identified 12 Japanese prefectures for import restrictions. "Radiation levels in some are indeed higher than normal ... but in others, nothing has changed since the accident," insisted Maruyama.

Remarks by EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger in March that Japan was facing an "apocalypse" and was in the "hands of God" also caused consternation in Japan.

"We would like to know what scientific information he based his comments on," the ambassador said.

Pay up on migrant deal, Turkey tells EU

Erdogan told German TV the EU has not kept its promise on the migrant deal. "What would Europe do if we let these people go to Europe?”, he said, referring to the 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Poland 'changing for the worse' for Muslims and refugees

Chechen refugees have been coming to Poland for decades. Tatar Muslims have lived there for centuries. But with the new government trying to whip up fear of foreigners, "things are changing for the worse”.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  2. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  3. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  4. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  8. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  9. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  10. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company
  11. Access NowEuropol Supports Encryption. We Can Relax Now… Right?
  12. GoogleLearn about Google's projects across Europe on Twitter @GoogleBrussels