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07 December 2004

U.S. Official Warns EU About Lifting Arms Embargo Against China

Congress would react by passing new defense trade barriers, official says

By Bruce Odessey
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Any decision by the European Union (EU) to lift its arms embargo against China would have significant consequences for U.S. military exports to the EU, a State Department official says.

The official, Gregory Suchan, director of the department's office of defense trade controls, described how China has lobbied the EU hard for lifting the embargo, which has been in place since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The United States continues its arms embargo on China.

Suchan made the comments at a December 7 export-controls seminar in Washington, just the day before the EU-China summit in The Hague, where the arms embargo issue is on the agenda.

Published reports said the EU was divided about lifting the embargo, with France and Germany reportedly most eager to trade with China's military. Other EU countries have argued that China has not sufficiently improved its human rights behavior to warrant lifting the embargo.

Suchan reiterated U.S. opposition to lifting the embargo. If the summit produces a statement of intent to lift the embargo, he said, he suspects the U.S. Congress will before long pass legislation erecting barriers to defense trade with the EU.

"We are hopeful about our efforts to persuade the EU not to lift the embargo," he said.

Suchan described other pending defense goods issues, including what should be a difficult decision by the Bush administration about whether to allow U.S. nonmilitary aircraft to carry missiles to knock down any shoulder-fired missiles, called MANPADS, launched at them by terrorists.

The highly regulated military technology that the civil aircraft would use would be subject to potential tampering by service crews wherever the planes go around the world, he said.

"We do not have a solution yet," Suchan said, adding that any decision would have to be made at a high level in the administration.

The Department of Homeland Security is leading the inter-agency initiative to counter the MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) threat. Some time in 2005 or 2006 the department is expected to make a recommendation to the administration and Congress about whether to adapt the existing technology from military to commercial aviation use.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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