World

Washington approves $1.78b arms sales to Taiwan

Deal worth $1.78 billion angers Beijing, even as US reaffirms 'One China' policy

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump's administration has approved US$1.3 billion (S$1.78 billion) worth of arms sales to Taiwan, a US government official said on Thursday.

The move has upset Beijing, but the US official emphasised that there is "no change to our long-standing 'One China' policy", stating that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of it, which Beijing says is a prerequisite for maintaining relations.

Announcement of the sale comes at a sensitive moment for the US and China, as Mr Trump is working to establish a partnership over trade differences and efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The US is Taiwan's most powerful ally and arms supplier despite having no official relations with Taipei after switching recognition to Beijing in 1979.

The latest plans are consistent with terms of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US official said, under which Washington keeps trade ties and sells Taipei weapons to "maintain a sufficient self-defence capability".

Taiwan thanked the US for its continued commitment under the legislation and said the deal "increases Taiwan's confidence and ability to maintain the status quo of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait".

China's reaction, as expected, was somewhat more combative.

It urged the US to revoke immediately its "wrong decision" to sell Taiwan the arms, saying it contradicted a "consensus" Chinese President Xi Jinping reached with Mr Trump in talks in April in Florida.

WRONG MESSAGE

The sales would send a very wrong message to "Taiwan independence" forces, China's embassy in Washington said.

"The Chinese government and Chinese people have every right to be outraged," it said.

"The wrong move of the US side runs counter to the consensus reached by the two Presidents and the positive development momentum of the China-US relationship."

China's Defence Ministry said Taiwan is the "most important, most sensitive core issue in Sino-US ties", and it warned the US to end such sales to avoid further damaging peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

China's anger over the issue risks undermining Mr Trump's attempts to press China to help on North Korea.

Asked about the arms deal at an event on Thursday evening in Washington, Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai said the US is "incorrigible" when it came to Taiwan, the official Chinese Communist Party People's Daily newspaper reported.

"But we should still continue to instruct (them) and continue advancing on the right track of China-US relations, because this is what truly fits for both countries' long-term interests," Mr Cui was quoted as saying.

The proposed US package for Taiwan includes technical support for early warning radar, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and missile components.

The sales, which require congressional approval, would be the first since a US$1.83 billion deal former president Barack Obama announced in December 2015, also to China's dismay.

It included two navy frigates in addition to anti-tank missiles and amphibious attack vehicles. - WIRE SERVICES

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