US to sell arms to Taiwan

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

Taiwan arms 311 (photo credit: AP)
Taiwan arms 311
(photo credit: AP)

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.

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

Taiwan is the mostsensitive matter in US-China relations, with the potential to plungeinto conflict two powers increasingly linked in security and economicissues. 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 Chinaof the sale only hours before the announcement, acknowledged thatBeijing may retaliate by cutting off military talks with Washington,which happened after the former Bush administration announced amultibillion dollar arms sale to Taiwan in 2008.

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

"Westrongly request that the US side correct the wrong action, so as toavoid further damaging Chinese-US relations," Wang said. "The Taiwanquestion 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.


Despiteits size, the US weapons package dodges a touchy issue: F-16 fighterjets that Taiwan covets are not included. Senior US officials saidthey are aware of Taiwan's desire for F-16s and are assessing Taiwan'sneeds.

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

The salesatisfies parts of an $11 billion arms package originally pledged toTaiwan by former US President George W. Bush in 2001. That package hasbeen provided in stages because of political and budgetaryconsiderations in Taiwan and the United States.

US officials say the Obama administration's Chinapolicy is meant to improve trust between the countries, so thatdisagreements over Taiwan or Tibet do not reverse efforts to cooperateon nuclear standoffs in Iran and North Korea, and attempts to deal witheconomic and climate change issues.

Chinaaims more than 1,000 ballistic missiles at Taiwan; the US governmentis bound by law to ensure the island is able to respond to Chinesethreats.

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

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