BEIJING: China demanded that the United States “immediately cancel” a potential sale of $2.2 billion in arms to Taiwan, including battle tanks and anti-aircraft missiles, adding fuel to tensions between the two powers.
The US later shrugged off China’s complaints, responding that the equipment would contribute to “peace and stability” in Asia.
The sale would be the first transfer of big-ticket US military gear to the democratically governed island in years, and came as ties between Washington and Beijing are already strained by their trade war.
China has lodged formal complaints through diplomatic channels expressing “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to the move, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.
The deal includes 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger portable anti-aircraft missiles, related equipment and support at an estimated cost of just over $2.2 billion, according to the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
The proposed sale “will contribute to the modernization of the recipient’s main battle tank fleet,” improve its air defense system and “support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security and defensive capability [of Taiwan],” DSCA said.
It would not alter the “basic military balance in the region,” the agency added, and Congress has been notified. US lawmakers have 30 days to object to the sale but are unlikely to do so.
Geng said the proposed deal “seriously violates the one-China principle” and “grossly interferes” in the country’s internal affairs.
“China urges the US to… immediately cancel the planned arms sale and stop military relations with Taipei to avoid damaging Sino-US relations and harming peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
The State Department responded by saying the transaction doesn’t change US recognition of Beijing as China’s sole government.
“Our interest in Taiwan, especially as it relates to these military sales, is to promote peace and stability across the strait, across the region,” spokesman Morgan Ortagus said.
In related development, Taiwan on Saturday defended a proposal to purchase $2.2 billion in arms from the US, following a Chinese announcement that it would sanction any American company involved in the deal.
US weapons help strengthen Taiwan’s self-defense in the face of a growing military threat from China, Taiwan’s defense ministry said.
“The national army will continue to strengthen its key defense forces, ensure national security, protect its homeland and ensure that the fruits of freedom and democracy won’t be attacked,” the ministry said in a statement.
China announced late Friday that it would impose sanctions on any US enterprises involved in the deal, saying it “undermines China’s sovereignty and national security.”
Taiwan split from China during a civil war in 1949, but the mainland still considers the self-governing island as part of its territory.
The US, which recognized Beijing as the government of China in 1979, does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but US law requires that it provide Taiwan with sufficient equipment and services for self-defense.
Taiwanese Leader Tsai Ing-wen, speaking in New York on Friday, said that her government has strengthened Taiwan’s national defense to protect its democracy, according to a transcript posted on the presidential office website.