US, China lock horns over arms to Taiwan

China to impose curbs on US firms

The Pentagon on Friday sparked the latest challenge to China-US relations under President Barack Obama when it approved the $6.4-billion sale of Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, mine-hunting ships and other weaponry.

China responded furiously with a raft of reprisals, saying it would suspend military and security contacts with Washington and impose sanctions on US firms involved in the deal. It warned of “severe harm” to relations.

The Pentagon expressed “regret” over the bitter response, which reflected a rapid souring of relations with the US amid strains over trade, climate change and China’s Internet controls.

US State Department spokeswoman Laura Tischler told AFP the sale “contributes to maintaining security and stability across the Taiwan Strait”, a viewed echoed by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou.

“It will let Taiwan feel more confident and secure so we can have more interactions with China,” Ma was quoted as saying by Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

But China’s Xinhua news agency quoted the Taiwan Affairs Office as rejecting that view as “totally untenable”.

“The planned US arms sale sends the wrong signal to Taiwan and will only encourage the arrogance of Taiwan independence forces and hinder the peaceful development of cross-strait ties,” an anonymous official was quoted as saying.

Key issues

In an official diplomatic protest, China said the row would endanger cooperation with the US on “key international and regional issues”.

The US is calling for tougher action, including possibly more sanctions, on Iran. China imports significant quantities of Iranian oil and has sizeable investments there.

Jing-dong Yuan, a non-proliferation expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, said the dispute means Washington “should forget about” Chinese support for more sanctions against Tehran.

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