British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw today defended a UK campaign to lift a European arms embargo on China and predicted it would be overturned within six months.
He said in Beijing that an EU code of conduct that regulates all weapons sales to other countries should also be applied to Beijing.
In talks with his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, Mr Straw said that no decision was likely for at least two months, but that the ban probably would be overturned within six months.
Britain, France and Germany say the ban hinders relations with Beijing, and that there are safeguards preventing any arms sales from being used improperly.
But Japan and the US want Europe to keep the ban.
Washington, which has an arms embargo of its own against China, says arms sales could undermine East Asian security, endanger Taiwan and hurt efforts to push China to improve human rights.
Japan lobbied Mr Straw to retain the embargo during a stopover in Tokyo, with Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura saying that the “security and environment” of East Asia could be threatened with a lifted ban.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan called the arms ban an anachronism and said China had no plans to boost purchases of European weapons.
The EU code of conduct, which could replace the arms embargo, requires EU nations to ensure the weapons they sell are not used for internal repression, external aggression or where serious violations of human rights have occurred.