China and EU talk weapons

The European Union and China have started talks aimed at lifting an arms embargo in place since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

    EU wants closer trade but better human rights in China

    But EU sources on Sunday said Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing was unlikely to get the news he wanted to hear.

    Although France initiated the push to lift the ban, supported by Germany, the Chinese face major opposition - notably from Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, which argue China needs to do much more to safeguard human rights.
    Europe also faces pressure from the United States, which firmly opposes ending the embargo.
    Other issues

    But the director of the Hong Kong-based French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, Gilles Guiheux, believes there are much more pressing issues.

    "Beijing is probably more concerned with getting a favourable EU policy statement concerning Taiwan."

    The analyst added the EU could use this to have Chine use its undoubted influence over the Myanmar junta to push for change.

    But an EU source said the bloc would also be urging greater progress on human rights in China.
    Specific policies

    Brussels wants more progress on the signing of a readmission agreement to allow Chinese illegal immigrants to be more easily deported from Europe, the source said. 

    Arms sales ban was slapped on
    China after Tiananmen massacre


    The EU already has such agreements with the autonomous Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau.
    "We expect the Chinese for their part to press us to give them market economy status."  
    But on the arms ban, the official said: "The feeling is moving away from lifting the embargo anytime soon."
    Embargo origins

    The embargo was imposed after China sent in tanks to break weeks-long pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, killing hundreds, in 1989.
    Beijing argues the ban is outdated and that it deserves more credit from Europe for far-reaching changes in the past decade that have elevated China into one of the world's most powerful economies.
    China is modernising its vast armed forces in line with its growing economic and technological clout, potentially opening up lucrative new markets for European arms companies.
    But during a visit to Beijing last week, European Commission president Romano Prodi said more efforts were needed first to improve human rights in China.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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