Chinese officials have lashed out at the Obama administration after the president of the United States pledged to offer the Taiwan military nearly $6 billion in upgrades.
Nearly 150 of Taiwan’s antiquated F-16 fighter jets will see improvements thanks to a $5.8 billion plan put before Congress yesterday. Taiwan had originally asked the US to help them with the acquiring of 66 new, high-tech aircraft, and while the US has not ruled out the possibility of lending a hand in the future, for now they will offer billions in aid to help build up the Taiwanese military.
Leaders in China are strongly opposed to the assistance, however, and continue to condemn the United States for their involvement in the neighboring island. The state-run news outlet Zinhua reports that Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun says the deal “will inevitably undermine bilateral relations as well as exchanges and cooperation in military and security areas” between his nation and the US.
American officials attest that the arms deal is not to be considered a slap in the face of China, but rather an offering of assurance to Taiwan that they will be able to continue security.
“We firmly believe that our arms sales to Taiwan contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland tells CNN.
Despite insistence from the US, China remains weary, however. Chinese Foreign Ministry officials have asked Ambassador Gary Locke to wage a “strong protest” on the deal, and the Washington Post reports that China’s ambassador in DC is also voicing outrage over the exchange.
“China strongly urges the United States to be fully aware of the high sensitivity and serious harm of the issue, seriously treat the solemn stance of China, honor its commitment and immediately cancel the wrong decision,” is the message Zhijun delivered to Locke.
The Post adds that the deal should not seriously damage relationships between the US and China, mostly because America is only equipping Taiwan with upgrades and not the fleet of several dozen space-age jets they asked for. Speaking to RT on the deal last week, investigative journalist Wayne Madsen predicted “If its weaponry that China doesn’t look at as aggressive towards China, they will probably be okay with it . . . But if it’s any sort of advanced weaponry, we’re going to see some problems between Beijing and Washington.”
The United States has aided the military of Taiwan ever since World War 2 and is obligated to assistance under law. China, however, often offers criticism but eventually obliges to the exchange. “This is a kind of ritual and all the players know their roles,” Yawei Liu, director of the China Program at the Carter Center, tell The New York Times. “There is a script they follow and then hope things cool down so they can return to business as usual.”
Last year Beijing ended an alliance with the US military over another arms deal with Taiwan. This upgrades Obama proposed will go towards a fleet of jets that was purchased nearly 20 years ago.