12/15/2004, 00.00
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China wants new defence technologies from the EU

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than its weapons, China wants Europe's military technology to upgrade its existing defence sub-systems such as radar and sonar, this according to Robert Karniol, Asia specialist for Jane's Defence Weekly.

When Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said at the end of the EU-China summit "the lifting of arms sales embargo does not mean that China would like to buy advanced weapons from Europe", he should be taken at his word, Mr Karniol insists. "Rather," he believes, the demand "is aimed to oppose political discrimination against China."

Even the US, which has been one of the most vocal opponents of lifting the EU embargo, has managed to sell weapons and weapons-related hardware to China despite its own sanctions, Mr Karniol said.

China's goal is that an end to the EU embargo would put pressures on other arms exporters to lift their restrictions allowing it to import technologies it needed for its own weapons modernisation programme.

According to Arthur Ding, a specialist on China's People's Liberation Army at Taiwan's Institute of International Relations, "if China could get the EU arms embargo lifted, this would bring pressure on Russia [. . .] to lift its own restrictions". "European technology could [then] be used to upgrade China's existing Russian weapons systems," Mr Ding said.

With Europe and the United States maintaining arms and high technology sanctions on China following the Tiananmen Square slaughter in 1989, Russia has been China's main arms supplier selling its neighbour billions of dollars worth of advanced fighter jets, advanced destroyers, submarines and other weapons systems.

"Even if the embargo is lifted, China might not buy a lot of arms from Europe because its main goal is to build up its own technology," Mr Ding stressed.

China could be satisfied with a "few weapons systems or sub-systems in order to study the technology and see if it could be reproduced," he said.

Despite the embargo, China has still been able to purchase weapons and weapons technology from Europe: helicopters and missiles from France, advanced radars from the United Kingdom and diesel engines for their submarines from other European manufacturers.

In 2002, China bought $US 280 million worth of weapons-related technology from Europe.

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