China irked by US move to sell Taiwan arms worth $1.4 bn

01 Jul 2017


China on Friday strongly protested the proposed US sale of $1.4-billion worth of arms to Taiwan, and demanded that the deal be cancelled.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the sale would severely damage China's sovereignty and security interests and run counter to Washington's commitment to a ''One China'' policy.

''We stress that nobody could sway our determination to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty,'' Lu said at a regular daily briefing. ''We oppose any external interference in our internal affairs.''

The US State Department approved the arms sale on Thursday, the first such deal with Taiwan since President Donald Trump took office, and also announced steps to penalise a Chinese bank, a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese citizens over dealings with North Korea (See: Trump sanctions on Chinese bank, others with N Korea ties).

The sale was broadly welcomed in Taiwan as a show of US support, despite concerns about the strain on finances and Beijing's angry response. Taiwan's defence department said the sale would enhance the island's self-defence capability.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has long opposed any arms sales to the self-governing island by foreign entities. It insists there will be eventual reunification, through force if necessary.

The US State Department's approval of the sale, the first since December 2015, follows a tense year between China and Taiwan.

Beijing cut ties with the government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen shortly after she took office in May last year and has been steadily ratcheting up diplomatic and economic pressure. Her ruling Democratic Progressive Party says it wants stable relations with Beijing, but hasn't followed her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, in endorsing the ''one-China'' principle.

''We can't disregard the importance of strengthening our military capabilities just because we are at peace now,'' Tsai said on Friday. ''The best way to stop battle is to always be well prepared for battle. We will continue to enhance our strength and maintain peace. ''

China's hostility toward Tsai is a big concern, Lee Chun-yi, a ruling party legislator, told AP. ''Most people will support this arms sale because we need to strengthen our defence'' amid strained relations between the sides, he said. The party favours a stronger Taiwanese identity.

About 66 per cent of Taiwanese oppose unification with Beijing, a Taiwan Indicators Survey Research poll found in May 2016.

Many in Taiwan had been wondering whether. Trump was sidelining Taiwan to form stronger relations with Beijing, in part to seek its help in pressuring North Korea to end its nuclear weapons programme. Trump had raised hopes on the island when he broke with diplomatic precedent in December by taking a phone call from Tsai, but in February he assured Beijing he supported its ''One China'' policy.

The arms approved by the US government for sale to Taiwan include torpedoes, technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles and missile components, officials from the two governments said.

 ''President Trump has been in office for five months and just approved the first arms package for Taiwan,'' the foreign ministry in Taipei said. ''That amply shows Taiwan's security is a priority.''

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