China has threatened to retaliate against the latest US weapons sale to Taiwan, which has said it is not looking to enter an arms race with Beijing.
- China has been expanding its armed forces and increasing pressure on Taiwan
- Taiwain’s Defence Minister thanked the US and said the country was focused on deterring attacks
- The Trump administration has increased US support for Taiwan with weapons deals and official visits
Responding the Trump administration’s approval of a potential $US1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) arms sale to Taiwan, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said such sales should stop.
The sales “seriously interfere with China’s internal affairs, seriously damage China’s sovereignty and security interests, send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces, and severely damage China–US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he said on Thursday.
“China will make a legitimate and necessary response according to how the situation develops.”
He did not give details, but China has sanctioned US companies in the past for selling weapons to Taiwan, though it is unclear what form they have taken.
The latest US arms package includes sensors, missiles and artillery.
Further deals are expected for drones and land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles to serve as coastal defence cruise missiles.
Taiwan’s armed forces are dwarfed by China’s, which are expanding their capability with impressive new weapons like aircraft carriers and stealth fighters.
The Trump administration has ramped up support for Taiwan through arms sales and visits by senior US officials, adding to tensions between Beijing and Washington.
Beijing has applied increasing pressure on democratically ruled Taiwan to accept China’s sovereignty, including by flying fighter jets across the sensitive mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer.
US pushing Taiwan to modernise defence capabilities
In Taipei, Taiwan Defence Minister Yen De-fa thanked the US.
He said the weapons were to help Taiwan improve its defensive capabilities to deal with the “enemy threat and new situation”.
“This includes a credible combat capability and asymmetric warfare capabilities to strengthen our determination to defend ourselves,” he added.
“This shows the importance attached by the United States to security in the Indo Pacific and Taiwan Strait. We will continue to consolidate our security partnership with the United States.”
Mr Yen said Taiwan was not looking for a confrontation.
“We will not engage in an arms race with the Chinese Communists,” he said.
“We will put forward requirements and build fully in accordance with the strategic concept of heavy deterrence, defending our position and defensive needs.”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made defence modernisation a priority in the face of a rising Chinese threat.
There has been a focus on asymmetric warfare capabilities, which refers to making any Chinese attack difficult and costly, for example with smart mines and portable missiles.
The US, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei though it is its strongest global backer.
It has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military so it can become a “porcupine”, hard for China to attack.
Taiwan has been testing new surface-to-surface missiles which its media says have the ability to strike deep inside China, potentially giving the island the ability to attack far-off Chinese air bases and command centres.