EU Bows to Bush Over China

WASHINGTON -- Yielding to pressure from U.S. President George W. Bush and threats of retaliation from Congress, the European Union has put off plans to lift its arms embargo on China this spring and may not press the issue until next year, U.S. and European officials said Monday.

The officials said that in addition to American pressure, European nations have been shaken by the recent adoption of legislation by the Chinese National People's Congress authorizing the use of force to stop Taiwan from seceding. The Chinese action, they said, jolted France and undercut its moves to end the embargo before June.

"Europe wants to move forward on the embargo, but the recent actions by China have made things a lot more complex," said a senior European official. "The timeline has become more difficult. The timeline is going to have to slip."

The embargo was imposed after China's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

A senior U.S. State Department official said European "signals" of a shift in position had been transmitted in the last few days, most notably by Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, and by a comment from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over the weekend.

Straw said in a television interview in Britain on Sunday that the problems of lifting the embargo "have actually got more difficult rather than less difficult," and that the Chinese action on Taiwan had created "a difficult political environment" that had stirred concern by both conservatives and liberals in Europe.

In Beijing early Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Straw's "sobering comments" reinforced the United States' continuing concern that lifting the embargo now would alter the balance of military forces in the region and undercut U.S. efforts to get China to improve its human rights record.

With tensions building in the Taiwan Strait, Rice later noted, and China seeking advanced technology for its navy, the sale of European equipment would jeopardize U.S. efforts to secure the area.

"After all, it is American forces here in the Pacific that have played the role of security guarantor," Rice said.

n China appealed to the EU on Tuesday to go ahead with plans to lift the embargo, reacting angrily to reports that action might be delayed because of Beijing's passage of the law authorizing the use of force against Taiwan.

"Linking these two issues is unreasonable," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

"The passage of the anti-secession law is an effort to ease tensions across the Taiwan Strait. ... The key to ease tensions is to check Taiwan's secessionist forces and to stop all secessionist activities.

"The arms embargo against China is political discrimination, which is not in line with today's reality," Liu said at a regular news briefing.