01/21/2005, 00.00
JAPAN – CHINA – EUROPEAN UNION
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Japan against lifting arms sale ban against China

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan opposes lifting the arms sale ban against China. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura made this clear in talks with his British counterpart Jack Straw who was in Tokyo on Thursday. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced that the ban will probably be lifted by mid-2005.

Mr Machimura said "[i]t is extremely worrying as this issue concerns the peace and security environments not only in Japan but also in East Asia as a whole."

Japan is increasingly concerned about China's growing military clout.

Its relations took a turn for the worse when a Chinese nuclear submarine intruded into Japanese waters in November.  Eventually, China apologized for the incident, saying the intrusion.

Before going to Japan Jack Straw said the EU understood Japan's concerns and the decision would not be made before March.

Speaking before parliament on Wednesday Mr Straw aids that lifting the arms embargo does not mean immediate sales to China.

The EU code of conduct requires member states to ensure the weapons they sell are not used for internal repression, external aggression or are not sold where serious violations of human rights have occurred.

France and Germany are in favour of lifting the ban claiming that since 1989, when the ban was imposed, China has made progress in human rights.

Other EU members like Sweden and Ireland oppose ending the embargo and demand a stringent application of the code of conduct should it be.

The US, worried of a possible escalation in cross-strait tensions between China and Taiwan, opposes lifting the ban and is exerting strong diplomatic pressure on the EU to keep it.

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