Sunday, March 20, 2005

Lying is simply talking

It is a reflection of the incurable parochialism of British newspapers that, despite its importance, you will struggle to find any mention today of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Asia this week – in stark contrast to the coverage given to her visit to Europe last month.

To give it is due, however, the BBC Radio 4 programme World at One did feature Rice’s visit as its lead item today, although – as one might expect – did not mentioned the lifting of the EU arms embargo.

Yet this was one of the main issues addressed by Rice in a news conference in Seoul today – her last before leaving for Bejing - when she warned that European weapons technology should not be used by China to expand its military, again warning against the lifting of the embargo.

She was speaking alongside South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-Moon, when she said that the EU "should do nothing to contribute to a circumstance in which Chinese military modernisation draws on European technology...," adding, "Our view is that it is not appropriate."

And, with more than a hint of steel, Rice went on to say that the United States would maintain its armed forces in the Asia-Pacific region to safeguard the current balance of military power.

Already, however, l’escroc Chirac has reaffirmed Paris' support for lifting the embargo, although when he spoke alongside Friday the leaders of Germany, Russia and Spain on Friday, he declared that Europe will not sell sophisticated weapons to China.

The "European" (i.e., French) position, he said, is "clearly for the lifting of the embargo - without meaning, naturally, that implies the sale of arms and notably sophisticated systems to China."

He really ought to talk to his defence minister Michèle Alliot-Marie. Only recently, she declared that, by selling sophisticated weapons to China, it would reduce that country’s need to produce her own.

Then, joined up government does not seem to be Chirac’s speciality when he represents a country that is at one is so morally superior that it misses no opportunity to parade its human rights credentials, and lambastes the United States for keeping the death penalty, yet on the other hand is so anxious to do business with China which does not even pretend to observe basic human rights.

That much was brought into high focus today by The Sunday Times, with a piece about high-tech, mobile execution vehicles, which retailed an account of the execution on 19 January of Li Jiao, who was executed within 14 minutes of sentence being pronounced.

This is a country which Amnesty International estimates is executing up to 10,000 people each year and which celebrated the lunar new year six weeks ago by putting 200 to death.

Nothing of this, of course, would affect Chirac’s view of the embargo which, after all, was imposed in the first place because of China’s breaches of human rights. But then hypocrisy is something of a traditional for a country of which American writer Fran Lebowitz once said: "To the French, lying is simply talking."

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