France continues push to end China arms ban

21st April 2005, Comments 0 comments

BEIJING, April 21 (AFP) - France threw its support Thursday behind a law that allows China to attack Taiwan while vowing to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell Beijing weapons.

BEIJING, April 21 (AFP) - France threw its support Thursday behind a law that allows China to attack Taiwan while vowing to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell Beijing weapons.

On a three-day visit to China, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said Paris had no objections to the anti-secession law, appearing to put it at odds with the European Union.

"The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France," he said in a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.

At the same time, he vowed that his government would continue to push for the lifting of what he called the "anachronistic" and "discriminatory" arms embargo against China.

The two issues are closely linked, with one of the main concerns of the 25-member EU bloc as it mulls when to remove the embargo being China's sabre-rattling stance on Taiwan.

The EU has made clear it is opposed to any use of force between China and Taiwan and has warned against "any unilateral action".

The timing of the ban's lifting is in doubt because of current difficulties in Beijing's relations with not just Taiwan but also Japan, which has been the target of widespread recent protests in China over its wartime past.

The United States has warned that removing the embargo would upset the balance of power in the region.

"France continues to require the lifting of the embargo and does not see what could lead the European Council to change its position on the subject," he said.

He earlier told the Xinhua news agency China was becoming a "responsible, great nation" and the arms ban in place since the crushing of democracy campaigners in 1989 was outdated.

"This measure is anachronistic, wrongfully discriminatory and in complete contradiction of the current state of the strategic partnership between Europe and China," he said, according to a transcript seen by AFP.

"France believes that the transition in progress will leave China even stronger and responsible, a great nation respected and at peace with its neighbours, a new focus of stability on the international scene," he said.

Last December EU heads of government authorised the government of Luxembourg - which holds the bloc's rotating presidency - to finalise terms for removing the sanctions in the first half of 2005.

China already has at least 700 missiles aimed at Taiwan and Taipei has slammed the anti-secession law as tantamount to issuing the Chinese military a blank check to invade the island, leaving people in constant fear of war.

Although Taiwan has been ruled as a de facto independent state since 1949, China considers the island part of its territory that must at some stage be brought back under its control, by force if necessary.

France has been accused of seeking to curry favour with Beijing by spearheading the drive to end the arms ban, as it pursues new opportunities in the world's fastest growing major economy.

Its efforts paid off Thursday with the Toulouse-based Airbus signing orders for 10 new planes worth between USD 500-600 million (EUR 382-458 million) with Chinese airlines.

As well as Taiwan, another key concern of the EU as it considers the arms embargo is China's human rights record, which it has asked to be improved.

In the joint press conference with Raffarin, China's Wen insisted his country had made progress and was working towards ratifying a UN convention on the issue.

"We are making efforts to be able to ratify it as soon as possible," he said. China signed the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights in 1998 but has so far failed to ratify it, despite repeatedly saying it would.

Wen said that "even the most critical countries regarding China's human rights are obliged to recognise that China has made structural progress on this question".

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article