German Parliament Rejects Arms Sales to China | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 29.10.2004
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German Parliament Rejects Arms Sales to China

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder found himself isolated in the desire to lift an arms embargo against China on Thursday. The coalition pointed to tensions with Taiwan and "massive deficits" in human rights.

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His colleagues disagree with him on China

Germany's ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens has voted against lifting the European arms embargo against China, in direct opposition to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. In a parliamentary motion on Thursday, the Greens and Schröder's own Social Democratic party rejected a resumption of arms sales to China by the European Union. The motion made future weapons exports dependent on China signing up to the United Nations pact on political and human rights.

The foreign affairs spokesman for the Greens' parliamentary group, Ludger Volmer, said China's tensions with Taiwan and "massive deficits" in the area of human rights "make arms exports to China out of the question at the moment." The EU had introduced the embargo in 1989 after the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square which left hundreds of people dead.

EU split over ban

But Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac advocate a suspension of the EU arms embargo. Last December, Schröder -- who has been keen to increase trade relations with Beijing -- expressed his desire to end the ban during a state visit to China. The chancellor has frequently stressed how much China has changed since it violently suppressed the pro-democracy protests 15 years ago.

China: Jacques Chirac und Wu Bangguo in Peking

French President Jacques Chirac during his China visit with Chinese parliament chief Wu Bangguo.

While in China earlier in October, Chirac echoed his German neighbor when he said "most EU countries" were in favor of rescinding the embargo.

Yet Chirac may have been counting his chickens before they hatched. Just after his China visit, EU foreign ministers expressed skepticism and voted to review the matter. Spearheaded by Britain, the Scandinavian countries and some of the new EU members from Eastern Europe such as Poland and the Czech Republic, a good portion of the bloc opposed any resumption of arms sales to China.

Washington favors keeping ban

Outside of Europe, the US has also opposed plans to renew arms trade with China. The State Department said that if the EU were to lift sanctions, it would contribute to regional instability because high-tech military equipment from Europe, such as radar and communications gear, could be used to intimidate Taiwan further and even threaten US troops in the region.

The US also fears that a suspension of the embargo would hurt efforts to improve human rights in China. French President Chirac does not necessarily share that opinion. During his last visit, he called the ban the product of "another time," much to the irritation of human rights group and politicians back home.

Alain Madelin, a lawmaker in Chirac's ruling party, told French radio, "China needs human rights, freedom. It doesn't need our weapons."

For the time being, China will not be receiving any weapons or military equipment from the European Union despite the fact that Schröder and Chirac both are convinced otherwise.

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