Clinton clipped Madrid's wings on China arms embargo

Madrid tried to use EU presidency period to end block on weapons for Beijing

CARLOS E. CUÉ Madrid 15 DIC 2010 - 16:48 CET

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put an immediate stop to a Spanish intent to lift a European Union embargo on sales to weapons to China, a score of US Embassy cables show.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero wanted the EU to lift the 20-year-old ban when Spain assumed the bloc's rotatingpresidency earlier this year.

Carlos Blasco, Spain's ambassador to Beijing, first announced in January that his country was going to take advantage of its six-month term at the EU helm to push for talks among the 27 members to lift the prohibition that was put in place following the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square. A week later, Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos publicly confirmed this initiative.

That was when the United States went into action to put an immediate stop to Spain's intentions. On February 17, the US State Department sent a confidential cable to all its embassies in the 27 EUcountries asking them to oppose this action.

"This is an action request for all Embassies in EU countries to reiterate our position that the EU should retain its arms embargo on China," wrote Clinton on February 17. "We continue to believe that lifting the embargo is not warranted, on either human rights or security grounds. In terms of human rights, the Chinese Government's actions over the last few months have ignored international concern over specific human rights cases, including the harsh sentencing of Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison and the execution of British citizen Akmal Shaikh."

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