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China Calls for Lifting of EU Weapons Embargo

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing is calling for an end to the European Union's arms embargo, saying his country does not intend to buy a large number of weapons.

China wants the embargo lifted despite U.S. fears that Beijing may use new European weapons to attack Taiwan.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said Sunday the embargo is an obstacle to good relations with Europe. Mr. Li said China believes the embargo - which he calls obsolete, useless, and detrimental - is a jarring note in the strategic partnership between China and the European Union.

The European Union imposed the embargo after the bloody 1989 crackdown by Chinese troops on unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators.

The Bush administration opposes lifting the embargo, in part because the United States has committed to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese assault.

China considers democratic Taiwan a part of its territory and has vowed to reunite it with the mainland by force if necessary. The two have been governed separately since 1949, when Communists took over the mainland following the Chinese civil war and the Nationalists fled to the island.

Concerns over China's military intentions have risen in light of Beijing's plans to enact an anti-secession law at this NPC session. Critics say the law could give China a legal basis to attack the island, although Chinese officials say it is intended to discourage Taiwan politicians from declaring the island independent.

However, China's top diplomat on Sunday said Beijing does not intend to buy a large number of new weapons from Europe.

Foreign Minister Li says China is committed to peaceful development. He said it does not need to buy a large quantity of advanced weapons from Europe. He says that as a developing country, China does not have the money to buy expensive weapons, which, he said, would be useless to China.

On Friday, however, China revealed it will increase its defense budget by more than 12 percent this year. Officials say the additional money will pay for soldiers' wages, retirement pay, and the purchase of new weapons systems.

Mr. Li on Sunday also warned that U.S. military cooperation with Japan should not include Taiwan. He said any U.S.-Japanese defense activity related to the island would infringe on Chinese sovereignty.