19 MAY 2011
By Andrew Willis
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A recent proposal by EU high representative Catherine Ashton to lift the bloc's arms embargo on China was a "mistake" which caused great "concern" in Japan, a senior Japanese diplomat has said.
The issue is among several priority topics which Japan plans to raise at the upcoming EU-Japan summit on 28 May, together with slow progress in starting free trade talks and Europe's "disproportionate" import restrictions following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Ashton presented EU leaders with a policy paper at a summit in Brussels last December, in which she described the EU arms embargo with China as a "major impediment for developing stronger" co-operation.
EU members subsequently rejected the proposal to end the EU's ban on the sale of arms to China, put in place following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. But Japan fears the plan is still sitting on Ashton's desk.
"I don't think she has dropped the idea, that's why we want to strengthen our relationship with the EU. The US understands the danger, as they will be the first in line if something happens in Taiwan," ambassador Norio Maruyama told EUobserver in an interview on Wednesday (18 May).
Japan and the US currently have a close security arrangement, while the US has pledged to defend Taiwan in case of an attack, an island which China claims as its own.
"We have had a lot of bad experiences with the build up of China's military and the opacity of its military budget," Maruyama added. "An end to the arms embargo would be a mistake, it would destabilise the situation in the region."
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