German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has called for lifting the EU’s arms embargo against China. The embargo is the last one that was imposed after the bloody suppression of student revolts at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Will they soon carry German weapons?
“The new China is no longer the Tiananmen-China,” dpa quoted a delegation member travelling with Schröder on a three-day trip to China. While the People’s Republic apparently has not asked for arms deliveries, Chinese leaders consider the embargo “discrimination,” German government representatives told the news service.
They added that China had proven itself as a responsible partner in the United Nations as well as by acting as a mediator in the North Korea nuclear crisis. France has already suggested lifting the embargo.
China eyeing German plutonium plant
While China might not be directly looking for arms, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Schröder that he would like to buy a plutonium plant near Frankfurt and bring it to China. Siemens completed the €700 million ($837 million) plant in 1991, but it never began producing fuel elements.
A room inside the plutonium plant in Hanau near Frankfurt.
Siemens CEO Heinrich von Pierer, who is travelling with Schröder in China, confirmed initial talks about a sale, estimated at €50 million. Weapons-grade plutonium could be produced in the plant, but China already has had the nuclear bomb for about 40 years.
Asked about the sale, Schröder said that he didn’t see any reasons why it could not happen. “It doesn’t look like there is anything that will prevent it,” the chancellor said on Tuesday during a visit to Canton province in southern China.
U.S. likely to oppose end to embargo, plant sale
Schröder’s comments on the plant sale are likely to anger U.S. officials, whose foreign and security policy centers around the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
They are also bound to eye with suspicion the chancellor’s support for ending the arms embargo. China is the world’s biggest buyer of foreign arms, followed by Taiwan, which is mainly supported by the U.S. government. China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has repeatedly threatened the island republic with an invasion.
Schröder still has to sell plans to coalition partner
After his return to Germany, the Social Democratic chancellor will still have to convince his government’s junior coalition partner the Greens that an end to the arms embargo is justified. Members of the Green’s parliamentary group already said lifting the embargo was not up for discussion. Winfried Nachtwei, the Green’s deputy whip, said China’s human rights violations justified a continuation of the embargo.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, left, met with National Peoples Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo in Beijing on Tuesday.
Others agreed: “The chancellor’s causing the coalition grief by making such casual remarks,“ Winfried Herrmann, a Green parliamentarian, said. Angelika Beer, the Green party leader and defense expert, also said that it was “very early” to talk about an end to the arms embargo. Any Chinese arms requests would have to be denied, Beer said, citing Germany’s arms export guidelines, which prevent sales to countries that violate human rights.