Thursday 14 December 2017

Japans warns West against lifting China arms embargo

Praveen Swami and Malcolm Moore

Japan issued a warning over a Chinese campaign for a Western arms embargo to be lifted after a new report showed China possessed the capability to "knock out" five of the six US airbases in East Asia.

Japan has objected to a Chinese campaign for a Western arms embargo to be lifted after a report showed China had enough weapons to "knock out" five of the six American airbases in East Asia.

Ending the embargo, put in place after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, would be dangerous, Japanese officials said.

The report by The United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China's improved military technology posed a significant threat to US forces based in Asia.

"Since 2000, the [Chinese] air force has increased its number of fourth generation combat fighters by over 500pc," said Carolyn Bartholomew, the vice-chairman of the commission. "China's conventional missile capabilities alone may be sufficient to temporarily knock out five of the six US airbases in East Asia. Missile strikes could destroy US air defences, runways, parked aircraft and fuel and maintenance facilities."

Japan opposes proposals to lift the joint US and European Union arms embargo.

"Economic pressures make it attractive to lift the embargo," a senior Japanese official said. "But we believe such an action will be short-sighted and dangerous".

A Chinese diplomat said the embargo was "discriminatory and demeaning". Chinese hopes for an easing of the em­bargo were raised after President Barack Obama wrote to Congress for permission to sell it six Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft to combat oil spills.

China has exerted significant pressure on European countries to support the lifting of the embargo, arguing that it has bracketed China together with such pariah states as Zimbabwe and Burma. France and Spain have indicated they may be willing to lift the ban.

Britain privately believes removing the embargo would make little difference, because most defence technology is already barred from export to China under other EU legislation.

However, Britain is unwilling to upset either Japan or the US by supporting the removal of the embargo.

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