The European Union announced on Tuesday that it intends to bring its 16-year arms embargo against China to an end, much to the regret of visiting US President George W. Bush.
Soon equipped with European weapons?
US President George W. Bush expressed "deep concern" on Tuesday about European Union plans to lift an arms embargo on China, saying that it might upset relations between Beijing and Taiwan. His concerns alone are unlikely to be enough to stop the EU from pursuing its goal of ending its ban on arms sales to the People's Republic.
"With regard to China, Europe intends to remove the last obstacles to its relations with this important country," French President Jacques Chirac announced after talks with President Bush.
Chirac and Bush already met on Monday as well
Chirac maintained that the embargo, imposed in 1989 after the brutal suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, was no longer justified but the EU would ensure its abolition did not change the strategic balance in Asia. He noted that US allies Canada and Australia did not have such restrictions on arms sales to Beijing.
Bush fears a change in Asian power balance
The president made the concerns of the United States known.
"There is deep concern in our country that a transfer of weapons would be a transfer of technology to China which would change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan," he said after the NATO summit in Brussels.
"I am told that (the Europeans) have heard the concerns of the US and ...they know the Congress is concerned and they will try to develop a plan that will ease concern," Bush said. But he added: "We will see."
Earlier a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain and the other EU members were striving to allay US jitters about the lifting of an EU arms embargo on China.
Europe taking US concerns into account
"On China, we recognize that the United States has concerns, and along with our European partners we are working to address those concerns," the spokesman told reporters after a morning meeting between the two leaders.
Bush and Blair
"I think the Americans have said that they are here in listening mode on that issue," he added. "We welcome that. It is a question of 'discussions continue.'"
It looks increasingly like some Europeans have been lying in wait for Bush. After the relaxed smiles and cordiality offered to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her tour earlier this month, the president looks to be having a rougher ride since arriving two days ago.
More opposition ahead for visiting president
Protestors across Germany also voiced their opposition against Bush. "We don't care for Bush," reads the sign.
As well as the China issue, Bush has faced behind-closed-doors opposition to aspects of his Iraq plan concerning NATO members and the training of security forces in the country. France has agreed to spare just one member of staff from their NATO team while the French, Germans and Belgians continue to oppose sending any of their military personnel to Iraq.
Bush is also likely to face heat on other subjects such as the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the International Criminal Court and disputes over transatlantic trade.