China Furious as U.S. Considers $2 Billion Arms Sale to Taiwan

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrives at the Tsoying navy base in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan on March 21, 2017. Taiwan formally launched an ambitious project to build its own submarines as the island faces growing military threats from China as relations deteriorate. / AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should …
SAM YEH/AFP/Getty
JOHN HAYWARD

The United States may be preparing an arms sale to Taiwan that will exceed $2 billion in value, including both ground and anti-aircraft weapons. China responded angrily to news of the sale, warning it could inflict “serious harm” on fragile relations between Washington and Beijing.

Reuters quoted sources familiar with the negotiations on Thursday who said Congress has been informally notified of the arms sale. A major element of the deal is helping Taiwan upgrade its inventory of main battle tanks to M1A2 Abrams models instead of the older M60 Patton tanks it currently relies upon.

The Associated Press cited a statement from the Taiwanese Defense Ministry on Thursday confirming a request to purchase “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.”

Both the Pentagon and State Department declined to answer questions about the pending arms sale, stating their policy is to withhold comment until Congress has been formally notified.

“We will keep on strengthening our self-defense capabilities (and) will also keep on being a contributor to regional peace,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Thursday.

Tsai was strongly critical of totalitarian China on Tuesday’s 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. She said the deterioration of autonomy in Hong Kong proved that “democracy and an authoritarian regime cannot coexist within one country,” a refutation of the “one China, two systems” model Beijing employs to portray Taiwan as a temporarily autonomous province of the Communist state.

Tsai said the Tiananmen Square massacre and Beijing’s relentless suppression of the truth for three decades called the quality of mainland Chinese civilization into question.

“The world is still seeking the truth about the loss of thousands of young people during the June Fourth Incident, but the Chinese authorities have shown no remorse for the violent crackdown to this day and continue to cover up the truth. I believe people pursuing freedom and democracy around the world will never agree with such practices,” she said.

“Rest assured that despite threats and subversion, Taiwan will unconditionally defend democracy and safeguard freedom. As long as I am president, Taiwan will never bow to pressure,” Tsai vowed in a Tweet on Tuesday.

China has been warning since Tsai won the presidency that it will use military force to conquer Taiwan if it firmly rejects the “one China” model, and quickly grows belligerent with any foreign power that seems to challenge Beijing’s view of Taiwan, particularly the United States.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office pronounced Tsai’s remarks about Tiananmen Square “treacherous” and sneered that her “sinister political intentions are clear.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry was angered on Thursday by news of the pending U.S. arms sale to Taiwan. “We urge the U.S. to fully understand the high sensitivity and serious harm of the issue of arms sales to Taiwan and abide by the one-China principle,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday introduced a resolution to support “measures taken by the Government of Taiwan to deter, or if so compelled, defeat, aggression by the Government of the People’s Republic of China.”

The resolution condemns rhetoric from Beijing that “could insinuate an attack” on Taiwan, Chinese military exercises intended to intimidate the Taiwanese, and Chinese propaganda that aims to destabilize Taiwanese politics. The resolution endorses Taiwan’s defense strategy and urges Taipei to “continue development of a more lethal and resilient defensive posture.”

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