Chirac reassures Japan over lifting China arms ban

23rd March 2005, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, March 22 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac sought Tuesday to allay concerns over EU plans to lift a 15-year-old EU arms ban on China, saying it does not mean the EU will start selling arms to Beijing.

BRUSSELS, March 22 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac sought Tuesday to allay concerns over EU plans to lift a 15-year-old EU arms ban on China, saying it does not mean the EU will start selling arms to Beijing.

He made the comments in an interview with the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, released as European Union (EU) leaders gathered for a Brussels summit where the arms embargo could be discussed, at least informally.

"I want to reassure the Japanese who have expressed concerns," said Chirac, who is due to travel to Japan on Friday. He added that he was "sensitive to the concerns of the Japanese government" over the plans.

"Lifting the embargo does not mean selling arms. Europeans have no intention of committing themselves to a policy of arms exports to China," he said, adding: "Neither does lifting the embargo mean ending arms export controls."

The EU arms sales ban was slapped on China after the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy students in Beijing, but France has led a group of EU countries arguing that it is outdated and should be lifted.

The China arms issue was not on the formal agenda of the two-day EU summit, which is focused on economic reform, but diplomats said it could be discussed informally, notably over dinner Tuesday evening.

The comments came amid growing signs that the 25-member EU, which had been planning to lift the embargo by June, may delay the decision notably amid "complications" triggered by China's new anti-secession law targeting Taiwan.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Sunday that the law, which authorises use of force against Taiwan if it moves towards independence, has "created quite a difficult political environment" for the initiative.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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