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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 00:20 GMT 01:20 UK
China protests over arms for Taiwan
Kidd class destroyer USS Chandler
Taiwan is being offered four Kidd class destroyers
China has lodged a formal diplomatic protest over a new US arms package for Taiwan, condemning the sale of sophisticated weapons to the island.

Taiwan arms sale
4 Kidd class destroyers
12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft
8 diesel submarines

The protest was delivered by the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Yang Jiechi.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue warned: "China reserves the complete right to take further actions."

The US package is one of the largest arms deals made to the island in a decade and includes warships and submarines - but not hi-tech destroyers.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President George W Bush "believes this is the wise and proper course to take, representing Taiwan's legitimate defence needs".

We have no choice but to acquire defensive weapons to safeguard the lives and property of our people

Taiwanese statement
A statement from Taiwan's Economic and Cultural Representative Office - Taiwan's de-facto US embassy - welcomed the move.

"We believe that this decision is conducive to the security of Taiwan and constructive dialogue between the two sides in the future," it said.

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that if the US disregarded China's "solemn representation, it would be a grave violation of China's sovereignty" and a "rude interference in China's internal affairs".

The Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the Chinese Army newspaper as saying the move would have "suicidal results".

Substantial upgrade

Mr Bush approved the sale of four Kidd-class destroyers, along with eight diesel submarines and 12 anti-submarine planes.

Aegis-equipped destroyer
State-of-the-art: Aegis-equipped destroyer
They are expected to be made available from 2003, and will provide a layered defence against China's growing missile and submarine capability.

Taiwan had hoped to receive the sophisticated Aegis missile system, carried by US Arleigh-Burke class destroyers, as part of the package.

But despite Aegis' absence from this deal, the BBC's Tom Carver says the offer represents a substantial upgrade of Taiwan's defences.

President Bush has also hinted that the Aegis system would be made available at a later date if the Chinese military build-up continued.

Chinese fears

Beijing fears the Aegis technology could eventually form part of a regional missile defence system that would provide a shield for Taiwan against China's growing arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles.

Chinese missile
China fears Taiwan would use Aegis as part of a missile shield
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland.

The BBC Beijing correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says that, although China's initial response is robust, it is far from being hysterical.

He says the measured tone may also reflect relief that the arms package does not include Aegis.

Supplying Taiwan with the Aegis system could have seriously worsened Sino-US relations, already strained by the recent collision between an American spy plane and a Chinese jet.

The BBC's Mark Orchard
"It's been a testing time"
The BBC's Adam Brookes
"Significantly, President Bush could have sold advance radar systems"
US congressman Joel Hefley
"We have been a supporter of Taiwan since the very first"
Asian Security Studies Foundation's Gao Shiung-Bo
"What really matters are not the weapons but the American posture"

Key stories:


Spy plane row



See also:

20 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
12 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
17 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
16 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
20 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
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