U.S. Proposes $6.43 Billion Arms Sale to Taiwan
The Bush administration has agreed to sell Taiwan $6.43 billion of weapons, eliciting disapproval from Beijing, which sees the island as part of China.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei called for a meeting with the chargé d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to protest the sale, China's official Xinhua news agency said. A Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman said the proposed sale had "poisoned" otherwise-improving military relations with the U.S., Xinhua said.U.S. Navy
On Monday afternoon, the Pentagon said China had canceled some military contacts with U.S. over the proposed sale. Defense Department spokesman Maj. Stewart Upton said that Beijing notified the U.S. that it will not go forward with some senior-level visits and some other plans.
"In response to Friday's announcement of Taiwan arms sales, the People's Republic of China canceled or postponed several upcoming military-to-military exchanges," Maj. Upton said, adding that this does not represent a change in U.S. policy and that "China's continued politicization of our military relationship results in missed opportunities."
Notification of the sale was posted on a Pentagon agency's Web site Friday. Congress has 30 days from the announcement to comment on the sale, which will proceed if there are no objections.
Karl Duckworth, a State Department spokesman, said that the sale is "consistent" with U.S. policy and that all foreign military sales are discussed and approved through long-established procedures.
"We appreciate [Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's administration's] efforts to reduce tensions in the Taiwan Strait and to build on the already excellent ties between the people of Taiwan and the U.S.," he said.
The U.S. previously has approved sales of similar weapons to Taiwan. The two sides have been in talks about the current weapons package for some time, and the sale is only half what Taiwan requested.
China claims Taiwan as a province, but a strong independence movement has developed on the island over the past decades. Washington has recognized Beijing since 1979 but has committed itself to providing defensive weapons to Taiwan.
The last major arms sale to Taiwan was in 1992, just as the current President Bush's father was leaving office. China has since acquired an array of sophisticated weapons that many defense analysts say has slowly been tipping the balance of power in China's favor.
The U.S. has sold smaller batches of weapons to Taiwan since 1992, including a sale totaling $1.9 billion in September 2007.
The latest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have been held up in part because Taiwan's former President Chen Shui-bian began pushing for formal independence from China -- angering Beijing and irritating Washington. Mr. Ma, who took office earlier this year, has taken a less-confrontational approach toward China.
Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said: "We have a wide-ranging relationship with China. They know we are committed to the one-China policy" -- which holds that Taiwan is a part of China -- but also are aware of the U.S.'s commitments to Taiwan.
"We've seen improving relations between China and Taiwan, and we expect that to continue," he said.
Bonnie Glaser, of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that in agreeing to the arms sales now, "on the one hand, the U.S. wanted to send a signal of U.S. support for Ma's less-provocative policy toward the mainland, [and on the other] enable Taiwan to negotiate with the mainland from a position of strength."
But she noted several weapon systems that Taiwan wanted, especially submarines, weren't included in the package -- presumably in deference to Beijing.
Since Mr. Ma was elected in March, relations across the Taiwan Strait have been improving. But the Ma administration wants to keep the balance of power between the two sides roughly equal. His office issued a statement saying he was "delighted" with the announcement.
The weapons package includes antimissile systems sold by Raytheon Co. and helicopters from Boeing Co. The State Department said in a statement that the arms package is "a significant and tangible demonstration of the commitment of this administration to provide Taiwan the defensive arms its needs to be strong."
The package includes Block III Apache Longbow attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles, Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles, Javelin missiles, upgrades for Taiwan's E-2T aircraft and spare parts for Taiwan's air force