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Taiwan arms deal 'futile act', experts say

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-23 07:28
A US Air Force's F-16 fighter lands in Amari air base in Estonia on March 26, 2015. [Photo/VCG]

US urged to cancel $8 billion sale that would net the island 66 fighter jets

Taiwan buying United States 'fighter jets will not make its military strong enough to resist reunification by the People's Liberation Army, and the exorbitant "protection fee" used to procure US weapons should have been spent on improving the island's economy and people's livelihoods, military experts said on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement that the US State Department has approved a possible $8 billion arms package-featuring 66 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets and other support equipment-to Taiwan as a means to help the island meet "the evolving military threat" from the Chinese mainland.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Thursday that China urges the US to "immediately stop arms sales to Taiwan and stop supporting the separatist forces of 'Taiwan independence'," he said.

If approved by the US Congress, the deal will be one of the largest of its kind in recent decades and the first time since 1992 that the US has sold F-16s to Taiwan.

Ma called the island's ruling Democratic Progressive Party "shameless" for ignoring the wellbeing and safety of Taiwan compatriots and selling itself to the US.

"The DPP is driving the 23 million Taiwan residents to a dead end and it will definitely be punished by history," he said.

Major General Chen Rongdi, president of the War Institute of the PLA Academy of Military Science, said in a seminar in Beijing on Thursday that the arms deal has seriously damaged China-US relations as well as peace and security of the Taiwan Straits.

"The US is acting in bad faith by selling arms to Taiwan, because it had promised to reduce such transactions," Chen said.

The China-US joint communique of 1982 states the US will not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan.

"As for the Taiwan secessionists, the arms deal is like whistling in the dark-a futile act to embolden their separatist efforts," he said. "For an island like Taiwan, will buying a few planes improve its military capability? Impossible."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday that China will impose sanctions on US companies involved in the arms sales. China promised similar sanctions when the US sold $2.2 billion worth of weapons, including M1A2 Abrams tanks and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, to Taiwan last month.

Apart from sanctions, Chen said China will not rule out the possibility of taking other actions as well. "The PLA has the means, capability and will to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. This determination and ability should not be questioned," he said.

Senior Colonel Cao Yanzhong, a researcher from the war institute, said the motive behind the arms deal is the DPP trying to borrow the strength of foreign influence and resist unification at the expense of the Taiwan people.

Cao said the recent deal is aimed at making Taiwan more dependent on US equipment, thus allowing US military industries to create more jobs and continue to squeeze more money from the island.

"The DPP is foolishly paying more and more protection fees to the US as an act of compliance," he said. "The money can be better spent elsewhere, like improving the economy and the livelihood of Taiwan compatriots."

Zhang Yi contributed to this story.

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