US-Taiwan arms deal irks China

Beijing suspends military exchanges with Washington, says deal can jeopardise ties

US-Taiwan arms deal irks China

In this file photo, a US-made Patriot missile is launched during the annual Han Kuang exercises in  Ilan County, 80 km west of Taipei, Taiwan. AP

The Defence Ministry, in a strongly worded statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency, condemned the proposed US sale of weapons to the self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, which China considers an illegitimate breakaway province.

“Considering the severe harm and odious effect of the US arms sales to Taiwan, the Chinese side has decided to suspend planned mutual military visits,” Xinhua quoted the ministry as saying. The Obama administration told the US Congress on Friday of the proposed sales to Taiwan, a potential $6.4 billion package, including Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot “Advanced Capability-3” anti-missile missiles, and two refurbished Osprey-class mine-hunting ships.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei also told US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman that the arms deal could jeopardise bonds with Washington, which has looked to China for help in surmounting the financial crisis, dealing with Iran and North Korea, and fighting climate change.

The US arms sales to Taiwan have joined trade imbalances, currency disputes, human rights, the Internet, and Tibet among rifts dividing the world’s biggest and third biggest economies.

Washington and Beijing have also recently traded angry words about Internet policy after the search engine giant Google Inc earlier this month threatened to shut its Chinese google.cn portal and pull out of China, citing censorship problems and hacking attacks.

In coming months, Obama may meet the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader China calls a dangerous separatist, adding to Beijing’s ire with Washington.

Vice Minister He hinted that the anger would be felt in a number of areas.
“The United States’ announcement of the planned weapons sales to Taiwan will have a seriously negative impact on many important areas of exchanges and cooperation between the two countries,” He said .

He said the arms sales were “crude interference in China’s domestic affairs and seriously harm China’s national security”, words notably tougher than Beijing’s recent statements on the issue.

“This will lead to repercussions that neither side wishes to see,” said He. He urged the US to halt the planned sales.

Tiwan welcomes deal

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry welcomed Washington’s decision.  “Its sales of arms to Taiwan gives us greater confidence in pushing for an amicable outcome in our relations with China, and will help promote peace in the Taiwan Strait.”

Under President Ma Ying-jeou, since 2008 Taiwan has sought to ease tensions with the mainland and expand economic ties. But Taiwan also worries China could develop an overwhelming military advantage.

US officials have said Taiwan, which lags China in the balance of military power, needs updated weapons to give it more sway when negotiating with Beijing.

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