US to sell arms to Taiwan

Deal includes Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles.

January 30, 2010 02:56
2 minute read.
Taiwan arms 311

Taiwan arms 311. (photo credit: AP)


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The United States is planning to sell $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan, a move that will infuriate China and test whether US President Barack Obama's efforts to improve trust with Beijing will carry the countries through a tense time.

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The notification to the US Congress, posted Friday on a Pentagon Web site, includes Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, mine hunter ships and information technology. Congress has 30 days to comment before the plan goes forward; senior lawmakers traditionally have supported such sales.

Taiwan is the most sensitive matter in US-China relations, with the potential to plunge into conflict two powers increasingly linked in security and economic issues. China claims the self-governing island as its own. The United States is Taiwan's most important ally and its largest arms supplier.

The United States, which told China of the sale only hours before the announcement, acknowledged that Beijing may retaliate by cutting off military talks with Washington, which happened after the former Bush administration announced a multibillion dollar arms sale to Taiwan in 2008.

Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in an interview that Beijing will lodge a formal protest against the US decision. Asked if China would halt military talks, he said, "Let's wait and see."

"We strongly request that the US side correct the wrong action, so as to avoid further damaging Chinese-US relations," Wang said. "The Taiwan question and the arms sale issue bear on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, so this is a very serious problem."

China has threatened to invade should Taiwan ever formalize its de facto independence.

Despite its size, the US weapons package dodges a touchy issue: F-16 fighter jets that Taiwan covets are not included. Senior US officials said they are aware of Taiwan's desire for F-16s and are assessing Taiwan's needs.

The arms package includes 114 PAC-3 missiles and other equipment, costing more than $2.8 billion; 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, costing $3.1 billion; information distribution systems and other equipment, at $340 million; two Osprey Class Mine Hunting Ships, at a cost of about $105 million; and other items.

The sale satisfies parts of an $11 billion arms package originally pledged to Taiwan by former US President George W. Bush in 2001. That package has been provided in stages because of political and budgetary considerations in Taiwan and the United States.

US officials say the Obama administration's China policy is meant to improve trust between the countries, so that disagreements over Taiwan or Tibet do not reverse efforts to cooperate on nuclear standoffs in Iran and North Korea, and attempts to deal with economic and climate change issues.

China aims more than 1,000 ballistic missiles at Taiwan; the US government is bound by law to ensure the island is able to respond to Chinese threats.

Obama's national security adviser, Jim Jones, said Friday that both Washington and Beijing do things "periodically that may not make everybody completely happy."

But Jones told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank that the United States is "bent toward a new relationship with China as a rising power in the world."

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