China: "lifting of EU weapons ban shouldn't be delayed by anti-secession law"

China appealed to the European Union on Tuesday to go ahead with plans to lift a 15-year-old arms embargo, reacting angrily to reports that action might be delayed because of Beijing's passage of a law authorizing a military attack on Taiwan.

"Linking these two issues is unreasonable," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. "The passage of the anti-secession law is an effort to ease tensions across the Taiwan Straits. ... The key to ease tensions is to check Taiwan's secessionary forces and to stop all secessionist activities."

European diplomats say the EU is reconsidering a plan to lift the embargo following China's passage of the law on March 14 authorizing an attack if Taiwan pursues independence.

The EU had appeared close to lifting the ban. But British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Sunday that the potential use of force has created "quite a difficult political environment."

France and Germany are lobbying to end the ban, while Washington has argued aggressively to keep it in place. The United States also bars arms sales to China. Both embargoes were imposed following Beijing's bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Clarification of the European position is expected to come from the European Council in Brussels.

"The arms embargo against China is political discrimination, which is not in line with today's reality," Liu, the Chinese spokesman, said at a regular news briefing. "The EU should do something to contribute to the growth of bilateral relations."

China says it is unlikely to buy large amounts of European arms if the embargo is lifted, but analysts say Beijing is looking to Europe for high-tech equipment that it can't get elsewhere.

China has spent billions of dollars in recent years on Russian fighter jets, submarines and other equipment as it tries to modernize its military and back up threats to invade Taiwan.

The EU says that a nonbinding code of conduct would help monitor exports to China.

Officials say the code is being strengthened, and should help ensure that lifting the embargo does not produce a flood of risky or destabilizing military exports to China.

AUDRA ANG Associated Press

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