July 09, 2019

China demands US halt plan to sell £1.8bn of arms to Taiwan
China has demanded the US halt its plan to sell $2.2 billion (£1.8bn)  in arms to Taiwan, warning the deal could damage US-China relations at a time the two countries are seeking to resolve a longstanding trade dispute. The Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over US weapons sales to Taiwan, a self-governing democratic island that Beijing has long claimed as its own territory.  The planned sale is a “rude interference with Chinese national affairs and a severe infringement on Chinese sovereignty,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang. The US State Department earlier this week approved the sale of 108 Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, despite the often stated objections of China. Included in the package are also mounted machine guns, ammunition, Hercules armoured vehicles and heavy equipment transporters. US lawmakers were notified of the possible sale on Monday, and could still vote to block it. The tanks would significantly upgrade Taiwan’s aging fleet and help the island “meet current and future regional threats,” said the State Department. The purchases would come at a time when China has used more bellicose rhetoric to describe its interest in taking over Taiwan. In January, Chinese president Xi Jinping said that Beijing would not rule out the use of military force to ensure the “unshakable historic task” of the complete reunification of Taiwan with the mainland. China has also sought to isolate Taiwan by pressuring the few nations – mostly island states in the Pacific ­– that still recognise Taipei to break off their diplomatic ties and instead accept that the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing is the rightful government. Taiwan, an island of 23.5 million people, broke away from China in 1949, and has no formal diplomatic relations with the US, though Washington is bound by law to help provide the island with necessary defence capabilities. The US remains Taiwan’s main arms supplier.   In March Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president, said that Washington had responded favourably to Taipei’s request to purchase more weapons from the US. Additional reporting by Yiyin Zhong



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