China Angry Over U.S. Arms Supply To Taiwan

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China reacted strongly to the U.S. administration's $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan stating that relations between the two countries would be greatly impaired. A very angry China said it would "punish" certain U.S. companies involved in the arms sale to Taiwan with sanctions.

Beijing also indicated it would "partially" stop bilateral military exchange programs with the U.S., as well as halt talks on strategic security, arms control and anti-proliferation that was scheduled to take place soon.

Chinese leaders and legislators joined in condemning the move, with the government-owned media terming the U.S. action as a "chronic disease" in China-U.S. relations. The current spat is another sign of the increasingly fragile relationship between the two nations, one the largest communist nation in the world and the other, the oldest democracy in the world.

China accused the U.S. of having backtracked on its earlier stand of gradually reducing the quality and quantity of arms supply to Taiwan. China termed the sale of arms to Taiwan as unfortunate, likely to inflict serious damage to the "overall cooperation and relationship between China and the United States."

The U.S. administration on Friday notified the Congress on plans to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, in accordance with the U.S. law for which Congressional approval is a requirement before the deal can be executed. The lawmakers have 30 days to respond with comments or objections on the proposed sale.

The arms package for Taiwan made out by Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency includes 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, 114 Patriot "Advanced Capability" missile defenses known as PAC-3, 12 advanced Harpoon missiles capable of both land-strike and anti-ship missions, as well as communications equipment for Taiwan's F-16 fleet.

The package also includes two refurbished Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, but did not include Taiwan's request for 66 new U.S. Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighter jets to upgrade its F-16 fleet.

Chinese Foreign Ministry sources said cooperation with the U.S. on major regional and international issues would also "be inevitably affected by the issue," without elaborating. The Foreign ministry claimed the decisions were made against U.S. arms sale to Taiwan and it had "incurred severe damage to China-U.S. Relations."

Following the proposed arms sale to Taiwan, China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafai said the action tantamount to "crude interference in China's domestic affairs and seriously harm China's national security." Yafei on Saturday summoned the U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and lodged a "solemn representation."

Yafei sounded aggressive when he told the U.S. to "fully recognize the gravity of the issue, revoke the erroneous decision on arms sales to Taiwan and stop selling weapons to Taiwan. Otherwise, the United States must shoulder the responsibility for the grave aftermath."

The Chinese Defense Ministry Foreign Affairs Office also summoned the defense attache of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and lodged a "stern protest" against the proposed arms sale to Taiwan.

China's top legislating body, the National People's Congress, strongly protested against Washington's arms supply and demanded that the U.S. immediately withdraw the move. A statement purported to a top official of the National People's Congress indicated the sale "in disregard of the strong opposition and repeated representations from the Chinese side." The official was quoted by the government-owned news agency as saying, "We are firmly opposed to that (the plan), and has lodged severe representations to the U.S. side."

Recalling the three joint communiques it has had with the United States, China said the US has gone back on its promise to restrict arms supply to Taiwan and cut long-term arms sales.

Indignant, the Chinese believe the supply potentially endangers its national security and its "efforts for peaceful reunification" with Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan its own territory and relations between the two countries have been bitter since the Chinese civil war of 1949. At about that time, Chiang Kai-shek and his defeated Nationalists fled the mainland to the island and established self-rule there. China has since claimed sovereignty over Taiwan and has pledged to bring the island under its rule.

Nevertheless, in recent times, relations between the two nations improved after Kuomintang under President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in Taiwan, ousting the pro- independence Democratic Progressive Party government in the last elections.

Interestingly, China and Taiwan concluded their first round of trade negotiations on a proposed trade pact in Beijing last Tuesday, with negotiators indicating "broad consensus" on several issues. The conclusion of such a trade pact is expected to help China and Taiwan tackle the effects of the ongoing global financial downturn and build a cross-Strait economic cooperation mechanism that benefits people from the two countries.

Beijing suspended high level military talks with the U.S. in October 2008 after the Bush administration announced it would sell $6.5 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, despite Chinese objections. The talks resumed in February 2009, consequent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first visit to China.

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