Arms embargo tops agenda as Chinese foreign minister visits EU

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on Thursday traveled to European Union headquarters as the bloc considers lifting a 15-year embargo on arms exports to his country.

The 25-nation EU, however, is concerned about Beijing's new law authorizing an against Taiwan if the island declares independence.

Li was scheduled to hold talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and other officials in Brussels before heading to Luxembourg, which holds the EU's presidency.

EU nations are debating ending an arms embargo introduced after the 1989 clampdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The United States opposes such a move, warning it could lead to an Asian arms race, threaten Taiwan and pose a risk for U.S. forces in the Pacific.

Europeans say they will maintain tight controls on sales of high-tech weapons to China, but say the embargo is outdated and should be removed to enable the EU to engage more with the emerging economic superpower.

Some are hopeful China will see lifting the embargo as a goodwill gesture that will open its rapidly expanding markets to sales of European civilian goods, like airliners or trains.

However, in a statement on Beijing's new law authorizing force against Taiwan, the EU said "it would be concerned if this adoption of legislation referring to the use of non-peaceful means were to invalidate the recent signs of reconciliation."

It called on "all parties to avoid any unilateral action which might rekindle tensions."

Associated Press

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