Beijing Pulls Back Its Slingshot

China's puppet legislature will make it official next week: The military can use "nonpeaceful means" against Taiwan if Beijing decides it can no longer unite with the island nation by peaceful means.

That official threat should be another warning to the European Union that its plan to lift an arms embargo against China this June would put Taiwan, a democratic state, at a higher risk than it is now.

Congress has threatened to withhold arms technology exports to the EU if it lifts the embargo, which went into effect after the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing. For now, that's the best way to help protect Taiwan and slow down China's military threat in the Far East. China plans a 12.6 percent increase in military spending this year, the largest in three years. And its 1996 missile "tests" near Taiwan showed just how willing it is to use forceful intimidation in the region.

Both the EU and China try to play down the significance of any EU arms exports. China claims they would be "useless" while the EU calls the embargo "purely symbolic."

The EU appears willing to defy the US over this issue. But a compromise, such as foolproof export controls, is still possible. In the meantime, the US needs to safeguard the one viable democracy in Asia that provides a model for what China might become.

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