By BROOKS TIGNER, BRUSSELS
Worried about Beijing’s growing military strength, Japan is pressing the European Union not to lift its ban on weapon exports to China. Tokyo also seeks a permanent seat on the United Nation’s Security Council to counterbalance China’s influence within that body — a position the European Union says it supports.
Meeting in Luxembourg on May 2, Japanese and EU leaders agreed to pursue a stronger strategic dialogue on challenges to peace and security in East Asia, notably China’s rapid build-up of military power, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and Taiwan’s perilous relations with Beijing. China’s military expenditures have grown by 10 percent annually since the mid-1990s.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urged the European Union to maintain its 15-year-old weapon ban on China, asserting that his country’s view was “very well understood on this question” by EU leaders present at the meeting. “There are delicate problems in East Asia involving North Korea, China and Taiwan,” he said.
Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister and currently head of the revolving six-month EU presidency, said the union would not boost exports to China “in any manner that would threaten Asia’s security” if the ban is lifted.
Though his government aims to get a decision on the ban before its EU presidency ends on June 30, this is increasingly unlikely in view of recent objections by Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden to China’s continuing failure to fully respect human rights. EU sources here now predict the ban will not be lifted before 2006.
Meanwhile, Japan’s recent request for a seat on the five-nation Security Council has become a red-hot political potato. It provoked large protests in mid-April in Beijing, where demonstrators pelted Japan’s Embassy with eggs and stones. While trade and commerce between the two countries have grown steadily in the last decade, their political relations have soured in the last five years due to territorial disputes over small islands, and because of what Beijing sees as Japan’s inadequate apologies for its World War II conduct in China.
Such tensions, combined with Japan’s worries about China’s military intentions in the region, have compelled Tokyo to seek a seat on the Security Council.
Koizumi told Juncker that the situation “needs to be reflected in the United Nations” — a move Juncker said the European Union supports. The council’s five permanent members are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
One EU official told DefenseNews.com on May 5 that the Security Council’s current structure is “very lopsided when you look it. Until recently China’s been a political giant with a dwarf economy, and Japan an economic giant with little political influence. But they’re each reaching parity on both counts, and the Security Council needs to mirror that reality.”