Tue, Mar. 01, 2005
Bush, Congress united on not arming China
WASHINGTON - President Bush and congressional leaders
of both parties presented a united front Tuesday in
opposition to a European proposal to lift a
15-year-old ban on arms sales to China. The lawmakers
suggested that Congress might penalize participating
Europeans are "on the wrong track" in taking steps to
end the embargo, the chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee told reporters after a White House
meeting with the president.
Bush briefed Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and top
lawmakers about his five-day trip to Europe last week.
During that visit, Bush and European leaders found
considerable common ground on postwar Iraq and on
promoting democracy in the Middle East. They remained
far apart on China, however.
Bush said during the trip that he told European
leaders that Congress would not sit by if they began
resuming arms sales to China, and that they needed to
deal with U.S. lawmakers as well.
Many major European countries have begun selling
military equipment to China. The European Union plans
to end the arms embargo imposed in the aftermath of
the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Those plans brought sharp criticism from Bush, who
told gatherings of both NATO and the EU that lifting
the ban could change the balance of relations between
China and Taiwan. He also cited a lack of major
progress on human rights by China.
Resuming arms sales to China "is a nonstarter with
Congress," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., senior
Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
after the meeting with Bush.
The House voted 411-3 last month for a nonbinding
resolution condemning the EU plans, saying such a move
would endanger both Taiwan and U.S. troops in Asia.
The resolution noted that China has engaged in an
extensive military buildup, including deployment of
about 500 short-range ballistic missiles near the
A similar resolution is before the Senate.
Lugar said that if the European Union goes ahead and
lifts the arms embargo, Congress might impose "a
prohibition on a great number of technical skills and
materials, or products, being available to Europeans.
We would not want to see sharing haphazardly with the
Chinese those things which we think are the most
He added, "It means a lot of difficulties for
Europeans. Likewise for some Americans who may be
involved in these operations."
Sen. George Allen, R-Va., raised the possibility that
the United States might want to reconsider its Joint
Strike Fighter program, the next-generation fighter
jet that is in development with a number of
"We're not going to want that technology going to the
People's Republic of China," Allen said.
"I hope our European friends recognize the
implications that this potential change in policy with
China would do to their own relationship in arms and
military construction with the United States," he
Bush told the lawmakers that European leaders might
soon be "beating on their doors," according to
participants at Tuesday's session said.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush
discussed the arms sales issue as part of an overview
he gave congressional leaders about the trip, and that
he felt it needed to be discussed further.