Friday, March 2, 2007

China demands US cancel planned missile sale to Taiwan

Friday March 2, 11:55 PM


China demanded Friday the United States scrap a planned sale of hundreds of missiles to Taiwan, warning the deal would harm regional stability and bilateral ties.

"We solemnly demand the leader of the United States... immediately cancel this weapons sale (and) avoid harming the peace and stability of the Taiwan Straits and Sino-US relations," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

"The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this. We have raised solemn representations with the US side."

The US Department of Defence this week notified Congress that it planned to sell Taiwan 421 million US dollars worth of missiles, which would help boost the island's defences against rival China.

"The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region," the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency said.

Acquisition of 218 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air missiles and 235 Maverick missiles would help Taiwan "modernise its armed forces and enhance its defence ability to counter air and ground threats," it said.

Qin said the sale violated US commitments to a "one China policy," which maintains that there is only one China with Beijing as its capital.

By selling weapons to Taiwan, Washington was also violating its promise to gradually reduce sales to the island territory, he said.

"By selling these missiles to Taiwan, the United States is violating ... its commitments," Qin said.

"This is rude interference into China's internal affairs."

China considers Taiwan a part of its territory to be reunified by force if necessary.

The United States is committed to providing Taiwan with defensive weaponry in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, a US law passed when it switched its political recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

The proposed sale comes after US Vice President Dick Cheney last week expressed concerns over China's growing military might and as top US intelligence officials said Beijing was trying to achieve parity with the US in military affairs.

"China's continued fast-paced military build-up are... not consistent with China's stated goal of a 'peaceful rise,'" Cheney said while on a trip to Australia.

Retired admiral Michael McConnell, the new director of US national intelligence, told Congress on Tuesday that "it's a matter of their building their military, in my view, to reach some sort of state of parity with the United States.

"They are a threat today, they will become an increasing threat over time."

US officials estimate China's annual defence spending at between 80 and 115 billion dollars, the highest in the world after the United States, and well above their stated defence spending of 35 billion dollars last year.

Following the barrage of criticism, China insisted this week that it posed no military threat to the rest of the world.

"China adheres to the role of peaceful development. We are an important force for maintaining peace and stability," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said when asked about Cheney's comments.

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