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Cablegate: Ireland Still Opaque On China Arms Embargo

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000512

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2015
TAGS: PREL PARM PHUM
SUBJECT: IRELAND STILL OPAQUE ON CHINA ARMS EMBARGO

REF: A. DUBLIN 107
B. SKINNER-BENTON E-MAIL OF APRIL 22

Classified By: Political-Economic Counselor Mary Daly;
Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (C) Summary: In an April 27 meeting with Department of
Foreign Affairs Secretary General Dermot Gallagher, the
Ambassador strongly urged the GOI to join other Member States
in opposing the proposed lifting of the EU arms embargo
against China. Gallagher said that Ireland's position on the
embargo sought to acknowledge changes in China since
Tiananmen, while maintaining the status quo on EU arms
exports. He explained that, if the embargo were lifted,
Ireland would press for a Code of Conduct that was binding
and effective. The Ambassador noted that the Code did not
reassure the USG, given continued significant EU arms
transfers to China. Gallagher observed that China's new
anti-secession law had changed the mood among Member States,
and he expressed confidence that the EU would not take
near-term action on the embargo. Although Gallagher was
opaque in describing Ireland's position, he indicated that
Ireland would not buck the EU trend toward deferring a
decision on the issue. End summary.

Ireland's "Subtle Position"
---------------------------

2. (C) In an April 27 meeting with Department of Foreign
Affairs (DFA) Secretary General Dermot Gallagher, the
Ambassador urged the GOI to join other Member States in
opposing the proposed lifting of the EU arms embargo against
China. The Ambassador noted that the White House and
Congress viewed the embargo as a paramount concern and would
take serious interest in Ireland's position on the issue. He
also said that lifting the embargo would be detrimental to
East Asian security -- a view shared by Taiwan and Japan. He
explained that, if the embargo were lifted, an outbreak of
hostilities in the Taiwan Strait could pit American forces
against a Chinese military armed with advanced European
weaponry. The Ambassador highlighted President Bush's
intentions to maintain good relations with China, and he
cited the President's offer to conduct a strategic dialogue
with European partners on Asian regional security issues.

3. (C) Gallagher replied that Ireland had taken a "subtle"
position on the arms embargo that sought, on one hand, to
acknowledge changes in China since 1989 and, on the other, to
maintain the status quo on arms transfers. Repeating
familiar Irish arguments, he noted that China should not be
in the same category of rogue states as Burma and North
Korea, which faced similar EU arms bans. He added that there
had been improvements in China's overall human rights climate
since the Tiananmen era, though the Chinese Government had
far to go on that front. By the same token, the GOI would
want to see no change, either quantitatively or
qualitatively, in EU weapons exports to China if the embargo
were lifted. To maintain the status quo, said Gallagher, it
would be necessary to make the Code of Conduct, now a
political tool relying on good will, into a mechanism that
was as binding and effective as the embargo. He remarked
that Irish and U.S. views on the arms embargo "were not far
apart," and he expressed confidence that the EU would not
take near-term action on the proposal to lift the embargo.
He also noted that Prime Minister Ahern had had productive
discussions with President Bush on the subject on St.
Patrick's Day.

The Code of Conduct
-------------------

4. (C) The Ambassador responded that the Code of Conduct did
not reassure the USG on the EU's ability to restrain arms
sales to China. He pointed out that Member States applying
the Code had approved defense exports to China worth over
Euro 400 million in 2003. He also said that more recent
items approved for sale, including submarine and radar
technology, seemed inconsistent with the Code. Gallagher
expressed surprise at this information, which, he said, would
suggest that the embargo itself had been ineffective. He
noted that Ireland was not an arms exporter, and he cited
efforts within the EU to strengthen the Code of Conduct and
its complementary "tool box."

5. (C) The Ambassador closed by saying that the USG would
continue to press for an EU consensus opposing the embargo's
removal. He also said that Congress, like the
Administration, was fully engaged on the embargo and would
expect Ireland to come down on the right side of the issue.
Gallagher replied that there was already consensus among
Member States on the bottom line of reflecting current
realities in their relations with China; there were only
different approaches to achieving that goal. He added,
however, that China's new anti-secession law had changed the
mood among Member States, and he reiterated that there would
be no movement on the issue for some time.

Comment: Irish Not Pressing for Action
--------------------------------------

6. (C) As in previous discussions with other Irish
officials, Gallagher conveyed the GOI's desire to see the
embargo lifted, but avoided giving clear indication of
Ireland's role in internal EU discussions. Ireland's
position on the embargo reflects GOI interests in enhancing
relations, primarily commercial ties, with China, as signaled
by reciprocal high-level visits since 2003, including Prime
Minister Ahern's high-profile trade-focused visit to China
this past January (ref A). The positive news is that Ireland
apparently sees no interest in bucking the trend among Member
States toward deferring a decision on the embargo. As
Gallagher mentioned at one point in the conversation, Ireland
"won't be swinging from the chandeliers" for action on the
issue.

7. (U) The Ambassador did not have an opportunity to clear
this cable.
BENTON

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