China’s foreign ministry on Thursday threatened to retaliate against the latest U.S. arms sale to democratically-governed Taiwan, which Beijing claims is a renegade province.
The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that it had “approved the potential sale of three weapons systems to Taiwan, including sensors, missiles, and artillery that could have a total value of $1.8 billion,” according to Reuters.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to the announcement at a daily press briefing on Thursday. He said the planned arms sale would necessitate “a legitimate and necessary reaction” from Beijing:
China urges the US side to fully recognize the very damaging nature of arms sales to Taiwan, … stop arms sales to and military ties with the Taiwan region, cancel its arms sales plans to avoid further harming China-US relations and cross-strait peace and stability. China will make a legitimate and necessary reaction in the light of the development of the situation.
Hours after Zhao’s response, China’s defense ministry voiced its opposition to the planned arms sale as well.
“China’s Ministry of National Defense on Thursday night strongly urged the U.S. to stop the military contacts with … Taiwan … to avoid severe impact on bilateral and military-to-military relations between China and the United States, as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait [sic],” the state-run broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN) reported.
“The Chinese side will resolutely fight back if the U.S. side ignores the basic norms of international relations and is bent on behaving like this, the ministry said in a statement,” according to CGTN.
Reuters reported on October 13 that the U.S. State Department was moving forward with plans to approve five separate arms sales to Taiwan with a total estimated value of $5 billion.
The U.S. State Department on October 21 formally notified the U.S. Congress of its plan to export sophisticated military equipment to Taiwan, including: “11 truck-based rocket launchers made by Lockheed Martin Corp called a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), for an estimated cost of $436.1 million,” according to Reuters.
The notifications included orders for “135 AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) Missiles and related equipment made by Boeing Co, for an estimated $1.008 billion, and six MS-110 Recce external sensor pods made by Collins Aerospace for jets, at an estimated cost of $367.2 million.”
The news agency added that it expects “[f]urther congressional notifications … to follow Wednesday’s including drones made by General Atomics and land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles, made by Boeing, to serve as coastal defense cruise missiles” for Taiwan. Sources have told Reuters that “the 100 cruise missile stations and 400 missiles would have a cost of about $2 billion.”
Taiwan’s Defense Minister Yen De-fa thanked the United States on Thursday for the planned arms sale. Yen said that the weapons will help the island improve its defensive capabilities in response to an increased “enemy threat” from China.
“This includes a credible combat capability and asymmetric warfare capabilities to strengthen our determination to defend ourselves,” he added.
Taiwan’s Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang “expressed appreciation to the U.S. government for helping Taiwan strengthen its defense capabilities in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and the Six Assurances,” in a statement on Thursday, Focus Taiwan reported.
“The TRA, a U.S. domestic law that defines Washington’s substantial relations with Taipei, stipulates that the U.S. will make available to Taiwan defense articles and services to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities,” the Taiwanese news site noted.
Taiwan operates as a sovereign state with its own military and democratic government; despite this, Beijing regards the island as a breakaway territory and has vowed to reunify Taiwan with China by force, if necessary. China’s military has stepped up efforts to intimidate the island recently with aggressive military maneuvers over the past several months, including relentless military flyovers that cross the Taiwan Strait and violate Taiwanese air space. China’s air force has ordered thousands of these incursions in recent months.