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China urges US to ‘immediately cancel’ sale of tanks and missiles to Taiwan

An M1A2 Abrams tank trains at Orchard Combat Training Center in Boise, Idaho, Feb. 4, 2019.

THOMAS ALVAREZ/ARMY NATIONAL GUARD

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 10, 2019

China is demanding that the United States scrap a plan to sell more than $2 billion worth of military hardware, including M1A2 Abrams tanks and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, to Taiwan.

Such a deal violates international law, norms of international relations, the “One China” policy and interferes in China’s internal affairs, undermining the nation’s sovereignty and security, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Tuesday, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.

Under “One China,” the U.S. acknowledges Beijing’s view that it has sovereignty over Taiwan but considers its status as unsettled. The island split from the mainland in 1949 and is self-governing.

“The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the US plan to sell arms to Taiwan,” Geng said. “We have lodged stern representations with the US side on this.”

He called on the U.S. to “immediately cancel” the deal before it harms the countries’ ties and peace and stability in the region.

The sale could include 254 Stingers, 108 Abrams tanks and hundreds of machine guns, ammunition and other equipment, according to statements by the Pentagon’s Defense Security and Cooperation Agency announcing the State Department’s assent to the deal Monday. It is worth more than $2 billion.

The move comes as the U.S. and China clash over trade and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

The U.S. supports peaceful reunification of the island with the mainland but is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself if it is attacked, according to Carl Baker, executive director of Pacific Forum think tank in Hawaii.

U.S. Navy ships have transited the Taiwan Strait eight times in the past year, moves that draw strong protests from Beijing. France and Canada have also sent ships through the strait.

It’s unclear how effective the Abrams tanks would be to the defense of Taiwan, Baker said, in a phone interview Wednesday. However, the arms sale is likely to go ahead despite Chinese protests and signals America’s commitment to the defense of the island, he said.

There have been recent moves by the U.S. showing commitment to Taiwan that include visits by senior officials.

And Taiwan was referred to as a “country” in an Indo-Pacific Strategy report released last month by the Department of Defense.

“That has symbolic significance,” Baker said. “We’re trying to show that we really do support Taiwan as an independent entity without going beyond what we are required to do under the ‘One China’ policy,” he said.

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

Marines fire an FIM-92 Stinger missile during training at Onslow Beach, N.C., May 21, 2019.
ELIAS PIMENTEL/U.S. MARINE CORPS

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