31 Jan 2010

US defends arms sales to Taiwan

8:18 am on 31 January 2010

The United States has defended a plan to sell weapons to Taiwan in the face of an angry response from China.

The Obama administration has notified the US Congress of its first proposed arms sales to Taiwan, a potential $US6.4 billion package including Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot anti-missile missiles, and command-and-control technology.

A US State Department spokesperson said on Saturday that such sales contribute to maintaining security and stability between Taiwan and China.

China said it would impose sanctions on US arms firms, suspend military exchanges with the US and review co-operation on major issues unless Washington cancelled the sale.

Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei, said his government was "strongly indignant" about the proposed arms sales to Taiwan and the move could "seriously damage" its US ties.

He said the arms sales were "crude interference in China's domestic affairs and seriously harm China's national security" in remarks published on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou sais the weapons would give his country more confidence and a sense of security to go forward in developing cross-Strait relations.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

Taiwan has been effectively separated from China since 1949, when Nationalist forces fled to the island, escaping victorious Communist forces.

Since then, Beijing has demanded Taiwan accept unification, threatening it could resort to force.

The US has looked to China for support in surmounting the financial crisis, dealing with Iran and North Korea, and seeking international agreement on fighting climate change.