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Fires up China

Why is Norway showing a rocket system to a communist dictatorship we do not want to sell weapons to?


[china] The Chinese chief of defense and eight of his highly decorated generals have just been to Norway discussing "common military areas of interest". Liang Guanglie has inspected HM Kongens Garde and studied rocket technology from Kongsberg weapons factory. Everything has happened without any of the Storting's defense politicians knowing about it. And it is happening despite the fact that Norway has a boycott of China.

A few weeks ago, Chinese authorities tried to dictate Norway's composition of a delegation to come to the country. The planned visit was part of a twelve-year human rights dialogue between Norway and China. China would refuse two representatives from Amnesty International to join the Norwegian group.

When this decision became diplomatic, the Chinese authorities turned around completely because they did not want to "harm the good relationship with Norway". However, there was no diplomatic crisis when the Chinese defense chief visited Norway a few weeks before. Despite it being over 50 years since the last time a Chinese defense chief visited Norway, the rare summit was thrown down, and very few were informed about the visit. Norwegian newspapers did not mention Liang Guanglie's visit in one word.

No better

On June 4, 1989, students demonstrating for democratization at the Tiananmen Square were massacred by the Chinese military. The bloody and brutal reaction of the authorities was met with strong criticism from much of the world. The EU and Norway stopped selling weapons to China, and for a while foreign investment in the country was low.

Throughout the 1990s, China gradually opened its economy. More and more foreign companies

invested in the country, and soon the Norwegian business community wanted help from the politicians to carry out their investments in the country.

Individual meetings about human beings

rights were held with China at the political level from 1993. Several times, the dialogue on human rights took place in the extension of more traditional door-opener delegations attended by business.

As the human rights dialogue between Norway and China had been going on for nine years, the process was reviewed on order from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The report concluded that the dialogue had not led to any improvement in the human rights situation in the country.

"If you ask for results, it is in the area that opens the door that the dialogue is of greatest importance today," was the conclusion in the report authored by Njål Høstmælingen at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights. He continues:

"For example, the business community has phrased it so that human rights dialogue was an effective way to get in touch with and keep in touch with Chinese business in the period following the abuses at Tiananmen Square."

Today, hundreds of Norwegian companies invest in China, or have regular, important trading partners there.

Military interests

The chairman of the Defense Committee, Jan Petersen (H), SV's defense policy spokesman Bjørn Jacobsen and the Progress Party, which has three members of the Defense Committee's eight, all told Ny Tid that they did not receive any specific information about Liang's visit in May.

- I had not heard anything about this, given. I'm a little puzzled by this. We have quite different views on a lot of politics, Norway and China. They have a conflict with Taiwan, for example… And then there is Tibet, and the human rights situation is not so good. No, this is surprising, says Frps Per Roar Bredvold to Ny Tid.

Formally, the visit can be explained as part of a human rights dialogue. But Defense Chief Liang Guanglie met neither Amnesty nor the others in the dialogue group when he and his generals were in the country.

What was the Chinese defense chief talking to the host of the visit, Defense Chief Sverre Diesen, about?

One of what was proudly displayed during Liang's Norwegian visit was Rygge Airport. At Rygge Airport, he spent time on Kongsberg's high-tech new missile system, Nasams II. This is a brand new ground-to-air weapon system, which was just tested in May -

shot and qualified for NATO use through launches at Andøya missile station against unmanned aircraft.

The demonstration was a purely routine matter, Ny Tid is informed by the defense leadership, because the missile system was on Rygge, and because Rygge is just outside Oslo.

Military organization

"The visit was made at the request of the Chinese defense authorities and was part of a broader visit program to several European countries," the Ministry of Defense states in a letter to Ny Tid. Liang is also said to have had a "short" conversation with Minister of Defense Anne-Grethe Strøm-Erichsen.

“During his visit, General Liang emphasized that the purpose of coming to Norway was to create a basis for cooperation in selected areas related to, among other things, the education sector and modernization of the Armed Forces. During the bilateral staff talks, the Norwegian side briefed on the ongoing adaptation of the Armed Forces, Norwegian security policy, exercises and training as well as Norwegian participation in international operations.

The statement from the Ministry of Defense states that the Chinese showed interest in the Norwegian organization of the defense sector. In addition, Norway's experience in UN peace operations was welcomed. China has expressed to Norway that it will increase its participation in UN-led operations. Norway, for its part, expresses its willingness to consider cooperation with China along the lines outlined, the ministry said.

The Ministry of Defense did not find the rocket technology worth mentioning at all in its report to Ny Tid. Forces in the arms industry in most European countries have spoken out in favor of reopening arms sales to China, now that the country has in many respects become Europe's most important trading partner.

"State in the State"

- I do not react to the visit of a Chinese defense chief on a principled basis. One should have contact with each other. The question is what they talked about and why they did not keep a higher profile around this, says Bjørn Engesland in the Helsinki Committee to Ny Tid.

He has been involved in the human rights dialogue between Norway and China for many years, and participates in the delegation visiting China this week.

- It is quite striking that the Chinese Chief of Defense and eight of his generals may have visited Norway without anyone noticing, he says.

The human rights dialogue is part of a Norwegian desire for increased contact at a high level with several actors in Chinese society. Thus, in a way, it is natural to have contact with the military, which is portrayed by some almost as a "state within the state", with strong, own economic interests. And of course as an important actor in the events that were the backdrop when Norway initiated its dialogue with the country – the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

- As I said, it's funny that we have not heard of this before. But the important thing is what was talked about.

Rockets against Taiwan

Next to Akershus Fortress, the Chinese delegation also visited Rena camp, where they learned how Norway prepares its forces for international operations. And at Rygge flight station, the program was comprehensive:

- The visit to Rygge airport included orientering about the 717 and 720 squadrons and their capabilities and roles, with Jet-Falcon and Bell transport helicopters, respectively, and about Norwegian air defense capacity and Nasams, in other words the operational units located at Rygge, Christian Øverli informs the defense staff to Ny Tid.

Per Roar Bredvold in the Progress Party will not distrust anyone. But he just doesn't quite understand why it was any point to showcase this rocket system to a communist dictatorship that Norway boycotted.

- It was this conflict with Taiwan, then, he says.

- And isn't rocket technology completely uninteresting?

- No, exactly. They have a lot of rockets pointing towards Taiwan. I hope the Ministry of Defense has had an idea of ​​what they wanted with this. Hopefully they will only contribute to more openness about military issues, and to a more peaceful world, says Bredvold.

Don't think the meetings are going to suffer

[Dialogue meetings] Neither Amnesty nor the Helsinki Committee believe that the dialogue meetings between China and Norway this week will be harmed by the conflicts at diplomatic level.

- I think the process that has been through in advance of the meetings this June has seemed awareness and clarifying, Petter Eide told Ny Tid before he traveled to China.

The agenda for the meetings includes both general plenary discussions on human rights and working meetings in smaller groups around the themes of labor rights, custody / detention rights and the situation of prisoners in prisons.

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