China slams arms sales to Taiwan

AFP , BEIJING

Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 5

China confirmed yesterday it had curtailed military exchanges with the US over a proposed US arms package to Taiwan, saying the plan was a threat to peace in the region.

“It is US arms sales to Taiwan that disturb the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan strait,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) said. “This has contaminated the sound atmosphere for military relations, gravely jeopardized China’s national security and undermined China’s interests.”

Qin said the proposed arms sales “created obstacles” for planned bilateral military exchanges with the US, but he was unable to say which specific plans had been cancelled.

The Pentagon notified Congress last Friday of the US$6.5 billion in proposed arms sales to Taiwan, including advanced Patriot missile defense systems, Apache attack helicopters and submarine-launched anti-ship missiles.

But Pentagon spokesman Stuart Upton said senior level exchanges involving humanitarian assistance and disaster relief that had been scheduled to take place before the end of next month had been cancelled or postponed.

“[Chinese] officials have informed us that US-Chinese bilateral events may be affected,” Upton said in Washington on Monday.

Upton insisted there has been no change in US policy on arms sales to Taiwan and that the US had faithfully abided by the Taiwan Relations Act.

Qin blamed Washington for failing to fulfill a joint agreement with China to reduce its military sales to Taiwan.

“The US has no right to place its domestic law above international laws and even goes so far as to use it as an excuse to sell arms to Taiwan,” Qin said.

“We urge the US ... to drop its military sales to Taiwan and put an end to its military ties to Taiwan so as not to further damage the peace and stability across the straits [sic] and China-US relations,” he said.