Monday

16th Sep 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Agenda

Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK

Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Boris Johnson for the first time, but no breakthrough is expected in Brexit talks. MEPs are preparing to hear from the commission-designates, while Hungary will be grilled at the EU affairs' ministers meeting.

News in Brief

  1. Saudi oil production in flames after drone attack
  2. US: attack on Saudi oil came from Iran or Iraq
  3. Poll: Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang largest party
  4. Nationalist parties to support Sanchez if he makes deal
  5. EU finance ministers support simplification of fiscal rules
  6. Italy's Renzi ready to set up new political force
  7. Two independents come top in Tunisia presidential election
  8. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy

Agenda

Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK

Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Boris Johnson for the first time, but no breakthrough is expected in Brexit talks. MEPs are preparing to hear from the commission-designates, while Hungary will be grilled at the EU affairs' ministers meeting.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe
  2. France urges EU virtual currency rules amid Libra risk
  3. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  4. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  5. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  6. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  7. Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession
  8. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us