Chirac, the prime proponent of lifting the 16-year-old boycott, acknowledged that Tokyo was worried about arms sales to its western neighbour and rival but said Beijing’s demands were “legitimate”.
Chirac told a joint news conference in Tokyo that Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had expressed his concerns and wanted some explanations as to the planned sale.
“I indicated to him that the decision of the European Union does not imply a change in exports of sensitive arms or technology to China as they are subject to rules which cannot be broken,” Chirac said.
“Hence the decision does not mean things would change. It’s a political decision,” he said.
“The decision of the EU does not imply a change in exports of sensitive arms or technology to China”
“We believe that this lifting is legitimately sought by China and that’s why we have taken this decision.”
The European Union had initially set a goal of lifting the ban by the end of June, when the presidency of the 25-member bloc shifts from Luxembourg to Britain.
Call for delay
Britain had suggested that the end of the weapons sale ban could be delayed after China gave its army legal power on 14 March to invade Taiwan if the island seeks formal independence.
But Chirac has vowed to push ahead and end the embargo by the end of June.
Japan and the United States – which has some 40,500 troops in Japan, most of them on Okinawa near Taiwan – have agreed to work together to oppose the lifting of the ban.
“We told the president that we are against it,” Koizumi said of the end to the embargo, which was imposed after China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989.
Military spending increase
“In China military spending had seen double-digit growth for more than 10 years. As for Japan, the defence spending has been on decline over the past three straight years,” Koizumi told the news conference.
“Japan does not regard China’s economic growth as a threat. Rather we regard it as an opportunity. However, in relation to security concerns, such as the Taiwan issue, Japan has been asking for a peaceful resolution,” Koizumi said.
Japan and France also made no headway on their dispute over which country will host a ground-breaking multibillion-dollar nuclear reactor.
Chirac said the Japanese leader made proposals “which seem to be of a nature that could allow an agreement” on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) -seen as a testbed to create clean, inexhaustible energy before 2050.
Japans nuclear reactor
But Koizumi said: “Japan has no intention to withdraw its bid to invite ITER.”
China has been pressing
“With President Chirac, we have agreed to continue our discussions to reach a mutually agreeable solution,” Koizumi said.
One area of agreement between the leaders, however, was on a less controversial idea: the need for sustainable development.
Chirac earlier on Sunday became the first foreign leader to visit the six-month World Expo, a mixture between a futuristic city and an amusement park which opened to the public on Friday in central Japan’s Aichi prefecture.
Sustainable development issue
The theme of the 21st century’s first World Expo is sustainable development, with Japan showing off new technologies throughout the exhibition and France highlighting its efforts at its pavilion.
“Sustainable development is probably one of our century’s most crucial problems,” Chirac said during his 45-minute stop at the French pavilion.
“This century is certainly the last in which we can either react or abandon it (the goal), with all of the consequences that could entail,” he said.