US arms sales to Taiwan 'will spark retaliation'

Updated: 2011-09-23 07:27

By Wu Jiao, Cui Haipei and Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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Deal 'will certainly hurt relations with US and spark retaliation'

BEIJING - China strongly condemned the United States on Thursday for its $5.85 billion arms deal with Taiwan, warning the move would harm Sino-US relations and military exchanges.

Observers said that the Pentagon's move will certainly draw retaliation from Beijing.

The arms deal, notified by the US government to Congress on Wednesday, includes "updating" 145 of Taiwan's F-16A/B fighter jets with advanced radar and weaponry.

It also involves F-16A/B pilot training and logistics. Spare parts for the F-16 and other aircraft, such as IDF fighters, F-5E/F fighters and C-130H cargo planes, are also in the package.

If the deal goes through it amounts to more than $12 billion in arms sales to Taiwan within two years.

China cut off all military exchanges with the US after Washington announced a $6.4 billion arms deal with the island early last year.

Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on Thursday that the "wrong decision" to sell arms to Taiwan will unavoidably undermine Sino-US military relations, noting that issues related to Taiwan concern China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and core interests.

"We strongly urge the US to take immediate and effective measures to remove the negative impact and respect China's core interests and honor its solemn commitment on the Taiwan question," Geng said.

He said that China-US military relations have been in a vicious circle because of arms sales to Taiwan.

"Facts prove that the US should be held fully accountable for damaging military relations."

The State Council Taiwan Affairs Office also said on Thursday that the move by the US will harm the "hard won" peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits as well as the interests of people on the island and the mainland.

Late on Wednesday, Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun summoned US Ambassador to China Gary Locke and lodged a strong protest, saying that the arms deal will inevitably undermine relations.

Zhang said the wrongdoing by the US severely violates the three Sino-US joint communiqus, in particular the principles enshrined in the Aug 17 Communiqu.

This refers to an undertaking by the US in a communiqu signed in 1982 to gradually reduce arms sales to Taiwan. Arms sales to Taiwan were worth about $240 million when the countries established diplomatic ties in 1979.

"Does the US have any concept of time and quantity?" said Luo Yuan, a military expert with the Academy of Military Science.

"Barack Obama was wise not to sell the more advanced model, the F16 C/D, but it was absolutely wrong for him to agree to update the F16A/B. He may have chosen the lesser evil, but there is only one correct choice for the US, and that is to stop selling arms to Taiwan," Luo said.

Military and diplomatic observers interviewed by China Daily said that the deal will harm ties and that China will certainly retaliate.

"China is bound to retaliate," said Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank of the Foreign Ministry.

He said retaliatory measures are likely to be taken in military exchanges.

Qu also said that the arms sale will encourage separatists in Taiwan.

Peng Guangqian, a Beijing-based military strategist, said that the government is weighing countermeasures.

"Retaliation will be commensurate," Peng said.

Tao Wenzhao, a senior researcher at Tsinghua University, said that given the severity of the issue, China is poised to fight back.

Song Xiaojun, a military strategist in Beijing, said: "Obama's decision is short-sighted and aimed at winning votes in the presidential election. It will soon be proven wrong."

A commentary in the People's Daily said that the arms sale hurts China's core interests.

"US politicians are totally mistaken if they believe they can demand that China behaves as a responsible world power and cooperates with the US on this and that issue, on the one hand, while, on the other hand, wantonly harm China's core interests," it said.

The arms sale is the latest irritant in the relationship.

Recent spats include Washington's decision to challenge Chinese duties on US poultry products and accelerating momentum in the Congress to pass legislation pressing China to loosen controls on its currency.

President Hu Jintao and Obama will have opportunities to meet in the coming months at regional summits and the G20 meeting in France.

But some observers believed that Washington's decision not to sell the more advanced fighter jets means that relations will not face too much turbulence.

John Feffer, at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, said that he expected that the upgrade will not seriously damage relations.

"The Obama administration made a decision to push for an upgrade rather than the sale of the actual planes in order to minimize friction with Beijing. This is not an easy decision for the administration to make, given the huge profits associated with arms sales and the jobs connected to the production of F-16s," he said.

The US decision not to sell Taiwan new F-16 fighter jets is being seen by many US allies in Asia as a sign of China's growing clout, according to an analysis piece from the Associated Press.

The pre-eminent military power in East Asia for half a century, the United States has explicitly and implicitly provided a security umbrella for countries from Singapore to Japan, it said.

While few of these allies believe the US is lessening its commitment to the region, they still see Washington's refusal to make the F-16 sale as showing a new deference to Chinese interests, it added.

Tang Yingzi in Washington contributed to this story.