Beijing warned it would take countermeasures against Washington for selling 66 fighter jets to Taiwan after US President Donald Trump said he had approved the US$8 billion deal.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Monday said the sale of Lockheed Martin F-16V jets was a serious violation of the one-China principle.
“China has made numerous solemn representations to the US on the sale of F-16V jets to Taiwan,” Geng said in a press conference, adding that the United States should halt the sale.
“The US has to bear all the consequences triggered by the sale,” Geng said. “China will take necessary measures to defend its self-interest based on the development of the situation.”
Geng gave no details of the action China would take. In July, Beijing said it would impose sanctions on US firms involved in a deal to sell US$2.2 billion worth of tanks, missiles and related equipment to Taiwan, describing it as harmful to China’s sovereignty and national security.
Liang Yunxiang, an international relations expert from Peking University, said one countermeasure Beijing might use was to suspend military-to-military exchanges with the United States.
“And Beijing might also try to increase pressure on the island, including by conducting more military drills near or in the Taiwan Strait,” Liang said.
On Sunday, Trump said he had approved the proposed deal for the jets – a move set to significantly boost the self-ruled island’s defences against mainland China.
Speaking to reporters in New Jersey on Sunday, Trump said that the sale would need to be ratified by the US Senate but that he had approved it.
“It’s US$8 billion. It’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of jobs. And we know they’re going to use these F-16s responsibly,” he said.
If the deal is approved by Congress, it will be the first time since 1992 that the United States has sold F-16s to Taiwan. Previous requests were rejected by the Barack Obama administration, which instead offered to upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of about 140 F-16A/B Block 20 aircraft.
During months of slow progress since the sale was outlined earlier this year, some lawmakers and defence experts had suggested that Trump was using the proposed deal as leverage to secure a better agreement for the US in talks to resolve its year-long trade war with China.
Taiwan’s presidential office and foreign ministry lauded Trump’s announcement, calling it a strong sign of the US’ commitment to its security and saying the deal would help to maintain regional stability.
“The new warplanes will greatly strengthen our anti-air defence capability and we will continue to be devoted to safeguarding peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region, thereby maintaining freedom and democracy in Taiwan,” presidential office spokesman Alex Huang said.
In a statement, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said persistent war games by the mainland around the island and in the East and South China Sea had not only sabotaged peace and stability in the region but also triggered grave concern from China’s neighbours.
It described Trump’s approval of the deal as a “strong indicator of the close and growing security partnership between the US and Taiwan”.
Military experts have said the new variant of the F-16, the Viper – which can carry a wide range of short and medium-range air-to-air missiles – is more able to counter the threat of an air strike from mainland China’s fourth-generation aircraft, such as the Su-35 and J-10.
Last week, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the US administration had made progress in advancing the deal, which he called “an important step in support of Taiwan’s self-defence efforts”.
In July, the US also approved arms sales to Taiwan worth US$2.2 billion, including 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger portable surface-to-air missiles.
Beijing strongly opposes arms deals with Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province, but the US is obliged to help defend the self-governing island under the terms of its Taiwan Relations Act, effective since 1979.
Additional reporting by Kristin Huang
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