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China hits back at US over Taiwan weapons sale

Defensive missiles aboard a frigate - 26/01/2010
The US has a treaty obligation to help towards Taiwan's defence

China has announced a series of moves against the US in retaliation for a proposed weapons sale to Taiwan worth $6.4bn (£4bn).

Beijing said it would suspend military exchanges with the US, review co-operation on major issues and impose sanctions on companies selling arms.

Ties are already strained by rows over trade and internet censorship.

Taiwan's president welcomed the sale, saying it would make his country "more confident and secure".

The US State Department also defended the move on Saturday, saying the arms sales contributed to security and stability between Taiwan and China, Reuters reported.

Beijing has hundreds of missiles pointed at the island and has threatened to use force to bring it under its control if Taiwan moved towards formal independence.

ANALYSIS
Damian Grammaticas
Damian Grammaticas, BBC News, Beijing

You would expect China to react angrily to any proposed arms sale to Taiwan, but this time it seems to be going further than before.

Suspending military exchanges is a classic reply from Beijing and it may not even concern the US too much.

China's threat to impose sanctions on US firms supplying arms to Taiwan is interesting if perplexing.

It's unclear what "sanctions" would involve in practice, since US firms aren't allowed to sell arms to China

China's threat to withdraw co-operation on key international and regional issues is the most serious one. Here China can make life difficult for Washington.

It can complicate US attempts to deal with nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea, it can refuse to help in currency and trade issues.

But what is China trying to achieve by sounding so furious? Maybe Beijing's real aim is to try to deter America from future arms sales - for example the fighter jets and submarines which Taiwan really wants.

Taiwan and China have been ruled by separate governments since the end of a civil war in 1949.

China's Xinhua state news agency quoted the defence ministry as saying: "Considering the severe harm and odious effect of US arms sales to Taiwan, the Chinese side has decided to suspend planned mutual military visits."

"We strongly demand that the US respect the Chinese side's interests", it added, calling for the sale to be stopped.

The foreign ministry, meanwhile, said it would impose sanctions on US companies selling weapons to Taiwan, and that co-operation on major international issues would be affected.

But the US, like the EU, has banned its companies selling arms to China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, so it was not clear what effect the Chinese move would have.

Xinhua also said the US defence attache had been summoned.

Defence ties between the two countries have been difficult for several years because of differences over Taiwan, but the two countries' leaders pledged to improve them in 2009.

'More confident'

The moves came after Mr He said the arms deal would have "repercussions that neither side wishes to see".

US Taiwan arms plan announced

"The United States' announcement of the planned weapons sales to Taiwan will have a seriously negative impact on many important areas of exchanges and co-operation between the two countries," Mr He said in a statement published on the foreign ministry website.

Earlier China summoned US Ambassador Jon Huntsman to give a warning about the consequences of the deal and to urge its immediate cancellation.

Taiwan, meanwhile, welcomed the US move.

"It will let Taiwan feel more confident and secure so we can have more interactions with China," the Central News Agency quoted President Ma Ying-jeou as saying.

The Pentagon earlier notified the US Congress of the proposed arms sale, which forms part of a package first pledged by the Bush administration.

PROPOSED ARMS SALE
114 Patriot missiles ($2.81bn)
60 Black Hawk helicopters ($3.1bn)
Communication equipment ($340m)
2 Osprey mine-hunting ships ($105m)
12 Harpoon missiles ($37m)
Source: Defense Security Co-operation Agency

Friday's notification to Congress by the Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) was required by law. It does not mean the sale has been concluded.

US lawmakers have 30 days to comment on the proposed sale, Associated Press reported. If there are no objections, it would proceed.

The arms package includes 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters and communications equipment for Taiwan's F-16 fleet, the agency said in a statement.

It does not include F-16 fighter jets, which Taiwan's military has been seeking.

Our correspondent says the deal has been in the pipeline for a long time and is nearing its conclusion, but China does want to stop it.

Beijing has previously warned the US not to go ahead with arms sales to Taiwan.

TAIWAN-CHINA RELATIONS
Ruled by separate governments since end of Chinese civil war in 1949
China considers the island part of its territory
China has offered a "one country, two systems" solution, like Hong Kong
Most people in Taiwan support status quo

Last week US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Beijing with a call to China to investigate cyber attacks on search giant Google, after the company said email accounts of human rights activists had been hacked.

The DSCA said the proposed sale would support Taiwan's "continuing efforts to modernise its armed forces and enhance its defensive capability."

It added: "The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region."

The US is the leading arms supplier to Taiwan, despite switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

Washington regards it as an obligation to provide Taiwan with defensive arms.



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