11 March 2005
France's defense minister said in Washington Thursday that the European Union will send a delegation to the United States next week to try to convince officials to accept the union's plan to stop enforcing the arms embargo against China.
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie says the E.U. delegation will meet with senior officials and members of Congress to discuss the embargo issue. Some members of Congress have threatened trade retaliation against Europe if it lifts the embargo.
Minister Alliot-Marie said she hopes the delegation eases concerns among U.S. officials, who have said lifting the embargo could help China's military modernization program and would send a message of approval on its human rights policy.
The embargo was imposed to protest China's crackdown on the student-led democracy movement on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
European officials say they will replace the embargo with a code of conduct that will provide even stronger limitations on what type of military equipment can be sold to China. And the French defense minister said France's own laws are even more strict.
President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac discussed the issue during Mr. Bush's recent visit to Europe. President Bush indicated that Europe had to convince the U.S. Congress to accept the plan in order to avoid sanctions.
U.S. concerns have been heightened this week, as China's legislature considers a law against secession. Some see that as a direct threat to Taiwan, where independence sentiment has been rising.
The Bush-Chirac meeting, and the French defense minister's visit Thursday, are part of an effort to restore U.S.-French relations, which were damaged by the disagreement over the Iraq war two years ago. At her news conference with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld both officials stressed subjects on which the United States and France agree, including the need for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. And they also mentioned areas where French and American military forces are working together, including Afghanistan.
Exchanging smiles with Secretary Rumsfeld, Minister Alliot-Marie said the two countries agree on many things, but not everything. She said that is the "spice of life," and "the best part of it is that we can then reconcile with each other."