China has said the EU's 16-year-old arms embargo is having a negative impact on trade and should be trashed, signaling the issue will be a top priority when President Hu Jintao visits Europe this week.
Beijing says the EU ban on Chinese weapons is discriminatory
In a wide-ranging interview with journalists, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing reiterated Beijing's opposition to the "discriminatory" ban on China and urged the European Union (EU) to immediately lift it.
"All the leaders of the EU that I have come in contact with believe that (the embargo) is a legacy of the Cold War, is poorly founded and is useless and only harmful," Li said. "This should have been thrown into the trash heap of history a long time ago."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder with Hu Jintao
Hu leaves for a tour of Britain, Germany and Spain on Tuesday.
The arms embargo has been a central issue for every high-level visit between China and EU countries for years.
Germa n y has backed lifti n g ba n
France and Germany have urged the lifting of the ban, but Britain and other EU nations disagree, citing US security concerns in the Asia Pacific region, especially over Taiwan.
Beijing has said it is not interested in buying European weapons, but that it is opposed to the ban in principle, especially as the EU and China have named their relationship a "strategic partnership."
China says it doens't want to buy European weapons
"China's position is very clear," Li said. "What we are not in favor of and are opposed to is in fact that this ban involves and reflects political discrimination. This political discrimination is not conducive to cooperation, it is totally useless and should be abandoned. If we really look at mutual benefit this is what we should do."
The ban was implemented following the brutal crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.
European public opinion has also appeared to oppose the lifting based on human rights concerns.
Chi n a pulls trade trump card
Although Li maintained there was little else China could do to nudge the EU toward the total lifting of the embargo, he did lay a veiled threat at increasingly lucrative bilateral trade.
Likely producing goods for Europe
"China's trade volume with the EU has for the first time exceeded the trade volume between China and Japan, without such discrimination no doubt the trade volume would be even bigger and we would have more benefits from the bilateral cooperation," Li said. "The EU people, like the Chinese people, will reap more benefits from this process." EU leaders once pledged to remove the ban by June this year, but China's anti-succession law on Taiwan, passed in April, stymied the effort due to heightened concerns that the law could eventually lead to war in the Taiwan Straits.