A new bill urging the EU and its member states to keep an arms embargo against China has been introduced to the US Congress.
Sponsored by US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the bill is in response to moves by some prominent European nations to lift the embargo.
“Lifting this embargo would pose a grave threat to Taiwan,” said Coen Blaauw, an official with the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA).
“The prospect of EU-made submarines and missiles being sold to China is very disturbing. Additionally, some of the European weapons are based on US technology and could be used against US forces if Washington defends Taiwan should China stage an invasion,” Blaauw said.
“The Taiwan Strait continues to be one of the major flashpoints in the world and a conflict in the region will ultimately involve US forces. Lifting the ban will be bad for Taiwan and bad for the US,” Blaauw said.
The bill has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where Ros-Lehtinen is expected to ensure that it is given a hearing soon.
A European arms embargo was introduced against China following the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.
However, Spain recently said it wants to “eliminate any inconvenience in relationships between the EU and China” and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has recommended lifting the embargo to develop stronger foreign policy and security ties with Beijing.
According to the bill, China’s military buildup remains “shrouded in secrecy” and challenges the US and its allies, “particularly Taiwan.”
“The People’s Republic of China has been engaged in an extensive military buildup in its air, naval, land and outer space systems, including the deployment of approximately 1,600 short and medium-range ballistic missiles near the Taiwan Strait,” it says.
Weapons sales from Europe, the bill says, would encourage China to settle longstanding territorial disputes in the region “by the threat or use of military force.”
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The Heritage Foundation´s Sally McNamara and Walter Lohman warned about Cathrine Ashton´s activities already in January:
It has been revealed that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton is pushing for the lifting of the EU’s 1989-imposed arms embargo on China. EU leaders failed to reach agreement on the issue at their summit in Brussels in December, but Lady Ashton is reported to be working closely with France and Spain to take the issue forward this year, describing the embargo as “a major impediment” to intensifying relations between Brussels and Beijing.British Prime Minister David Cameron rightly opposes lifting the ban on both security and human rights grounds. It is vital that Cameron work closely with his European allies—including Poland and the Czech Republic—to block Lady Ashton’s initiative and make clear that he will use Britain’s veto power if necessary. The new chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–FL), should also make clear that a lifting of the embargo would fundamentally weaken the transatlantic alliance.
A Violation of Human Rights and Breaking Faith with an Ally
The EU’s ban on arms sales to China was imposed on human rights grounds in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square massacre. Not much has changed since in the area of human rights. In 2010, The Heritage Foundation conducted an extensive examination of every annual State Department human rights report since the massacre and found the situation over that time “not improving and occasionally worsening.”China wants the embargo lifted for two reasons. First, the Chinese do not believe that as a major world power they should be held accountable for their internal policies. Second, by accessing European defense technologies and reverse engineering those products, Beijing can improve its technological expertise, expand its military capacity, and increase defense sales. China is developing its armed forces rapidly, and Beijing has little intention of leaving itself dependent on foreign sources for key weapons in the long term.
And at whom is China’s weapons buildup directed? Last week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said out loud what many analysts have long observed: “Many of these capabilities seem to be focused very specifically on the United States.” It is inconceivable that the EU would directly assist in the development of forces in the Pacific intended to undermine America’s historical mission to safeguard peace, prosperity, and security in East Asia, an area of the world where it has tens of thousands of troops and its Pacific Fleet in harms way.
Lifting the embargo would also represent a contravention of several elements of the EU’s Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. The voluntary agreement—already blatantly disregarded by France, which announced that it will sell its Mistral assault ships to Russia—includes a commitment to “prevent the export of equipment which might be used for internal repression or international aggression or contribute to regional instability” and to take into account the risks posed to friends, allies, or other member states from arms sales.
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