The Chinese government yesterday said it was “seriously concerned” about a US congressional resolution adopted on Friday that would encourage Washington to sell F-16 aircraft to Taiwan and acknowledges that Japan administers the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台).
In comments posted on the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Web site, spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said Beijing had expressed “serious concern” over and “strong opposition” to provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 that would pressure US President Barack Obama to sell F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan and reaffirm Washington’s support for Japan’s position on the Diaoyutais. The islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
The bill, which would allocate a US$640.7 billion budget for, and authorize spending and programs for the Pentagon and other defense-related agencies, is pending Obama’s approval.
“China resolutely opposes any country selling arms to Taiwan,” Hua said. “We urge US Congress … to abandon the Cold War mentality for the sake of regional peace and stability and to abide by the principles of the three Sino-US joint communiques.”
In addition, Beijing “earnestly” called on the US to “respect China’s core interests and to act more in ways that are conducive to peace and stability of the region,” while doing more to promote US relations that encourage “stable development and the peaceful development of cross-strait relations — not the opposite,” she told reporters during a question-and-answer session.
In a commentary last week, Xinhua news agency said the Obama administration should reject any language in the act that risks undermining bilateral relations with China “to help foster a new type of relationship based on mutual respect and benefit.”
The proposal to sell F-16s to Taiwan represents “blunt interference in China’s internal affairs” and “breaks previous pledges made by the US to phase out arms sales to the island,” Xinhua reported, omitting the provisions outlined in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.
As the balance of air power in the Taiwan Strait shifts in Beijing’s favor, Taipei has been seeking to procure 66 F-16C/Ds from the US since 2007, but has made little progress.
Despite a US$5.2 billion upgrade package for its existing 145 F-16A/Bs, Taiwan will soon decommission its aging F-5s and some of its Mirage 2000s, which will further exacerbate the imbalance in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Supporters of the F-16 sale maintain that the modern aircraft are essential for Taiwan to defend its airspace.
China has long opposed the sale of advanced aircraft to Taiwan and says that crossing the “red line” would have serious consequences for relations between Beijing and Washington.
Turning to the Diaoyutais, Hua said China’s position on the disputed islands was “consistent and clear.”
“The Diaoyu Islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times,” she said, adding that the US-Japan Security Treaty only applied to a specific period and “should not harm the interests of third parties, including China, and should not draw the US into territorial disputes.”
Additional reporting by Bloomberg