China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, left, reviews troops with Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo on Sept. 20 prior to their meeting at the Egmont Palace in Brussels. (Thierry Charlier / AFP)
BRUSSELS — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao demanded the European Union lift a more than two-decade-old arms embargo against Beijing as the two global giants kicked off a summit Sept. 20.
Using tough language at the summit start, Wen said he “deeply” regretted both the arms embargo slapped on China in 1989 in response to protests on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and the bloc’s failure to recognize China’s “full market status”, meaning lift all tariffs on Chinese goods.
Britain notably has refused to buckle in recent years to pressure from France and Spain to review the embargo.
“I have to be very frank in saying this,” Wen said, calling for “lifting the arms embargo and recognizing China’s full economic market status.”
“A solution has been elusive,” he added as he spoke alongside EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
“I deeply regret this and hope the EU side will take greater initiative to solve these issues.”
The question of the arms embargo has been an irritant in EU-China ties in past years and divided the 27 nations in the bloc.
Early last year EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton triggered new debate over the issue by saying in a report that the embargo was “a major impediment” to developing EU-China ties.
Opponents of lifting the measure demand Beijing respect human rights and fear an end to the ban would help China develop new weapons technology.