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Chen warns EU against lifting China arms ban

Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian warned the European Union (EU) Tuesday against lifting an arms embargo on China, saying it could tilt the military balance with China and threaten regional security.

Speaking in a video-conference with EU lawmakers, he added that the planned lifting of the 15-year-old arms ban could also encourage Beijing to feel that it did not need to proceed with democratic reforms.

“Should the EU decide to lift its arms embargo against China it might lead to a tilt in the military balance in the Taiwan Strait which would pose a clear threat to peace and stability,” he said.

“If the EU decides to lift this arms embargo on China... it’s indirectly sending a signal to China that it doesn’t need to go on with this democratization,” he added.

The EU slapped the embargo on Beijing after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre that left hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed citizens and protesters dead on the streets of the Chinese capital.

But it appears set to lift the ban in the next few months, while putting in place a self-imposed code of conduct on arms sales to China.

The EU wants to lift the embargo with an eye firmly on the booming Chinese economy, as China continues moves to open up to the West which have already seen it join the World Trade Organization.

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The move has been vocally opposed by rights groups as well as the United States which fears that advanced weapons sales to China could eventually be used in any future attempt by Beijing to reunify a democratic Taiwan.

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed serious concern about the planned EU move when he visited Brussels last week.

Washington is worried it would give China access to hi-tech military know-how and firepower that would threaten Taiwan, which Beijing regards as part of its territory, and shift the strategic balance in East Asia.

And earlier on Tuesday, Human Rights in China urged the bloc not to lift its arms embargo on China until Beijing reassesses the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests and compensates the families of those killed.

“The (Chinese) government’s intransigence on reassessing June 4 is particularly relevant now that the European Union is seriously considering lifting the arms embargo it imposed on China,” said Liu Qing, president of the New York-based rights group.

Liu was commenting on an open letter to the Chinese parliament Tuesday by the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of relatives of those killed in the crackdown.

The Tiananmen Mothers have called for an open and independent investigation into the military-led crackdown.

The Chinese government maintains that the crackdown was necessary to safeguard political stability for ongoing economic reforms.

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