Arms embargo a 'sign of inequality'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 December, 2004, 12:00am

Beijing says EU ban will affect ties but denies holding up Airbus order in retaliation

Beijing said yesterday it wanted to be treated as an equal by Europe as it again urged the EU to lift its decade-old arms embargo.

Speaking at a press briefing, Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui said the mainland had no intention of importing weapons from European Union countries, but maintaining the embargo would affect Sino-EU relations.

'If the EU continues its arms embargo, we think this is a kind of political discrimination. It is a sign of inequality in bilateral relations,' Mr Zhang said, calling the ban outdated.

'We wish both sides can be more equal, and on the basis of mutual respect, [we] can push through progress on our relations,' he said.

The ban, imposed after the crushing of the June 4 democracy movement in 1989, is likely to be on the agenda when German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visits the mainland from Monday and Premier Wen Jiabao visits the Netherlands for the Sino-EU summit scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Mr Zhang also rejected a report by the Asian Wall Street Journal which claimed that Beijing was holding up an order for at least five Airbus A380 planes because of the arms embargo.

Mr Zhang said he was 'surprised by the imagination' of the report, adding that commercial behaviour had nothing to do with the arms embargo.

'Anything that is helpful to developing our tourism and is essential to our aviation industry, we will do it. In developing tourism, we need more planes,' he said, adding that Beijing would not interfere.

'Lifting the arms embargo should not be linked to any other questions, including human rights and Taiwan issues,' he said.

'Currently, China's biggest task is to further develop the economy and improve the living standard of the people.'

Just last week, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said the 25-nation EU was ready to give a 'positive signal' on the lifting of the embargo during the summit, but it was seeking progress on Beijing's human rights record.

Mr Zhang said: 'We are expecting a signal and a positive signal.'

The coming summit - attended by about 500 entrepreneurs from both sides - will also cover such issues as the appreciation of the euro against the US dollar and the demand for US treasury bonds.

Mr Zhang said discussions on China's bid to be regarded as a market economy would continue, adding that the EU's refusal in June to recognise it as such was 'unfair and unjust'.

Market economy status would make it harder for China's trading partners to file WTO anti-dumping suits against mainland exports.

Last month Argentina and Brazil joined the club of countries recognising China as a 'market economy', but major trading partners such as the United Status and the EU have been reluctant to follow suit.