China: US Relations Will Suffer Over Taiwan Arms Deal

Posted September 22nd, 2011 at 5:47 am (UTC-5)
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China warned Thursday that diplomatic and military relations with the United States will suffer because of Washington's decision to upgrade Taiwan's aging fleet of F-16 jet fighters.

U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke was summoned late Wednesday to the foreign ministry, and a spokesman says he was told the deal will undermine cooperation on military and security matters.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the U.S. government must take full responsibility for its actions.

China's foreign ministry issued its own statement Thursday, expressing “great indignation and strong condemnation” of the sale.

However analysts said China is unlikely to respond as harshly as it did to another arms sale to Taiwan last year, which led to a year-long cutoff in military-to-military relations with the United States.

In Taiwan, Foreign Minister Yang Jing-tien welcomed the sale as a “major breakthrough” for the Taiwan military, even though it fell short of the island's request to purchase 66 of the more advanced F-16 C/D fighters. He said the $5.85 billion package approved by Washington, which includes spare parts and training, provides Taiwan with many of the advanced systems it had been looking for.

U.S. officials say the upgrade will bring Taiwan's fleet of 145 F-16 A/B fighters up to the level of the more advanced jets it was seeking, and at a lower cost.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said the deal will significantly improve Taiwan's ability to defend its airspace against a rapidly modernizing Chinese military.

China regularly protests any arms sale to Taiwan, which has been self-governing since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Beijing says it must eventually be reunited with the mainland, and has been building up missile forces on its own side of the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing suspended military exchanges with the United States after a $6.4 billion arms sale last year, which included missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and high-tech systems.

But Mohan Malik of the Hawaii-based Asia/Pacific Center for Security Studies told VOA that despite the harsh rhetoric, he does not expect Beijing to react as strongly this time.

Analysts note that Beijing will not want to hurt the re-election chances of Taiwan's China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, who is engaged in a tough campaign against the candidate of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

They also say Beijing will not want to poison the atmosphere ahead of a scheduled visit to Washington by Xi Jinping, China's vice president and presumed next leader.