China Threatens Weapons, Rare Earth Sanctions on U.S. Companies Arming Taiwan

Warships launching countermeasures are seen on a screen showing a real-time feed from an indigenously-made Rui Yuan unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), during a military exercise at the Pingtung Air Force Base in southern Taiwan on January 24, 2019. (Photo by SAM YEH / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty …
SAM YEH/AFP/Getty

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper published a story Sunday citing “experts” warning that the Communist Party could sanction American companies who sell weapons equipment to Taiwan.

While the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned about these sanctions on Friday, the Global Times expanded their potential reach not just to weapons equipment, but to sales of private jets and rare earth minerals.

China is the world’s premier exporter of rare earth minerals, necessary for the manufacture of many high technology goods and military equipment. Chinese officials threatened to limit rare earth exports to America in May in response to tariffs imposed by the administration of President Donald Trump, but have not yet taken any measures to hinder rare earth imports to the United States.

Reports surfaced last week, citing the Taiwanese Defense Ministry, that the United States had moved forward with a request from Taipei to buy $2.2 billion worth of military equipment, including “108 cutting-edge M1A2 Abrams tanks, 1,240 TOW anti-armor missiles, 409 Javelin anti-tank missiles, and 250 Stinger man-portable air defense systems.” Taiwan’s government is seeking to boost its defense in light of multiple threats from Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping and his military officials that Beijing will not hesitate to invade and colonize Taiwan if its government continues to assert itself as a sovereign nation.

Taiwan is a separate country from China with its own military, federal government, and foreign policy. Beijing insists that Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is a rogue province that it hopes to rein in, either diplomatically or by force. China insists that all nations that have diplomatic ties to Beijing abide by the “One China” principle – they cannot officially recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state and have any ties to China. Thus, America does not officially recognize Taiwan, keeping only unofficial diplomatic posts in each other’s countries.

In its column Monday citing “industry insiders” in China, the Global Times identified multiple private corporations that build the tanks and missiles that Taiwan requested: “Raytheon that provides Stinger missiles, General Dynamics that provides M1A2T tanks, and BAE and Oshkosh that provide tanks equipment.” The Chinese regime could sanction these companies by keeping them from being able to legally sell their products in the country, but may go a step further and prevent them from buying the materials they need to make their products in the first place.

“China could freeze the industrial chains related to these companies, or stop providing certain base materials,” an “expert” at the government-friendly China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times. The expert’s evaluation, the Global Times explained, was a response to American observers noting that American companies do not often sell weapons and military equipment to China, so sanctioning those sales would have minimal effect.

Sanctioning sales of rare earth minerals to the companies, however, could do some significant economic damage, the Global Times claimed:

Rare earths, the industry which is largely controlled by China, are imperative in making advanced weapons and equipment. For instance, the M1A2 tank of General Dynamics uses samarium-cobalt in its navigation system, according to a UK-based Daily Telegraph report in 2011.

China could also ban sales of civilian items, such as private jets, to its citizens, blocking the corporations from a key client base of Chinese government-connected millionaires.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday that China “will impose sanctions on U.S. companies involved in the arms sales to Taiwan.” He did not specify the nature of the sanctions or when they would take hold. Geng also condemned the United States for allowing Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, to transit through the country on her way to Carribean allied states this weekend.

“We urge the US to abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US Joint Communiques, not allow Tsai Ing-wen’s transit and stop the official exchange with Taiwan,” Geng said. “It must no longer provide any platform for the separatists to advocate ‘Taiwan Independence.'”

“As we stated, China’s position on US arms sales to Taiwan is also stern. We urge the US to cancel the arms sales immediately and cut its military ties with Taiwan,” he concluded.

Taiwan’s defense ministry defended its decision to buy American weapons in light of routine threats from Beijing this weekend.

“The national army will continue to strengthen its key defense forces, ensure national security, protect its homeland and ensure that the fruits of freedom and democracy won’t be attacked,” the ministry said in a statement published Saturday.

Tsai, stopping in New York on her way to St. Kitts and Nevis, also dismissed China’s threats to the U.S. economy this weekend, warning China to stop making “irresponsible remarks” against Taiwan and America.

In a speech at Columbia University on Friday, Tsai emphasized the importance of Taiwan remaining a sovereign, democratic state as an example to the world.

“Given the opportunity, authoritarianism will smother even the faintest flicker of democracy. The process may be gradual, so subtle that most don’t even feel it,” Tsai warned, referencing China’s attempts to stifle democracy in Hong Kong. “Before you know it, you feel some unseen force is monitoring your every move. You begin to censor your own speech, your own thoughts.”

During her visit to New York, Tsai met with several senior American lawmakers, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The House of Representatives last week passed its version of the National Defense Authoritzation Act (NDAA) that allows the controversial arms sales to Taiwan.

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) leaders have on multiple occasions this year threatened an invasion of Taiwan. Last month, China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe insisted Beijing would not “yield a single inch of the country’s sacred land.”

“China must be and will be reunified. We find no excuse not to do so. If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs, at all costs, for national unity,” Wei warned.

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