The Heritage Foundation

News Releases on Europe

March 19, 2004

March 19, 2004 | News Releases on Europe

More Should Be Done To Prevent EU Arms Sales To China, Expert Warns

WASHINGTON, MARCH 19, 2004 - Leaders of the European Union are expected, at a March 25-26 summit meeting in Brussels, to lift their embargo on selling arms to China - a move that Congress and the Bush administration should make greater efforts to prevent, says a leading China expert at The Heritage Foundation.

"Such a change could have grave security repercussions for the United States," says Tkacik. "China still threatens Taiwan with war, and the United States is legally obligated to help Taiwan defend itself. This means that, in the event of U.S.-Chinese hostilities, China may well end up using advanced weaponry from European defense firms against the United States."

Chinese diplomats recently held talks with EU officials in Brussels, trying to persuade them to lift the 15-year-old ban, which prevents EU firms from soliciting contracts with China's military. EU officials levied the embargo in 1989 to protest the brutalities the Chinese People's Liberation Army inflicted on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

Echoing concerns that the State Department recently voiced to America's European partners, Tkacik outlines three main reasons for continuing the ban:

  • EU leaders imposed the ban because of the human-rights situation in China, a situation that hasn't improved enough to merit lifting the ban. Serious problems persist, including, the State Department reports, "extrajudicial killings, torture and mismanagement of prisoners, forced confessions … and denial of due process."
  • U.S. officials doubt Beijing's ability to protect sensitive technology from being transferred to a third country.
  • The United States has an obligation to help maintain a balance between Taiwan and China and ensure that Taiwan can defend itself-a task that would be compromised if EU leaders lift their arms embargo.

Tkacik recommends that the Bush administration and Congress try to forestall any attempt to lift the ban by reminding EU leaders why it exists and making them understand that lifting the ban could threaten U.S. forces and be interpreted as an unfriendly act. They also should restrict defense technology cooperation with companies that sell arms to China.

Tkacik's paper can be found online at bg1739.cfm.

About the Author