China denounces US' planned F-16 sale to Taiwan

A US-made F-16 fighter jet launching a flare during a military drill in Taiwan's Pingtung county in May. Washington is the main arms supplier to Taiwan and Beijing has repeatedly denounced US arms sales to the island. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A US-made F-16 fighter jet launching a flare during a military drill in Taiwan's Pingtung county in May. Washington is the main arms supplier to Taiwan and Beijing has repeatedly denounced US arms sales to the island. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Beijing warns of countermeasures if $11b sale of fighter jets proceeds

WASHINGTON • China has denounced the planned US$8 billion (S$11 billion) sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, one of the biggest yet by the United States to the self-ruled island, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Beijing had made solemn representations to the US over the planned sale.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Ms Hua as saying that it was a serious violation of the "one China" principle, under which Washington recognises Beijing and not Taipei, and undermined China's sovereignty and security interests.

Ms Hua urged the US to stop arms sales to and military contact with Taiwan. Otherwise, the Chinese side would "certainly take countermeasures", Xinhua said.

Leading US Democratic and Republican lawmakers said on Friday that Congress should move quickly with the sale as Taiwan faces pressure from China's increased military presence in the region.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jim Risch, a Republican, welcomed the proposed sale of the Lockheed Martin Corp F-16V jets.

"These fighters are critical to improving Taiwan's ability to defend its sovereign airspace, which is under increasing pressure from the People's Republic of China," he said in a statement.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr Jim Inhofe, and fellow Republican Senator John Cornyn said Taiwan "remains an important pillar of security and stability" in the region.

The sale of the jets would "deter aggression given Beijing's increasing assertiveness and military build-up", they said in a joint statement.

Similarly, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Eliot Engel, and the panel's ranking Republican, Mr Michael McCaul, said in a joint statement that the deal "sends a strong message" about US commitment to security and democracy in the region.

 
 
 

Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both Republicans, also issued statements backing the deal.

Washington has no formal ties with self-ruled and democratic Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself.

It is the main arms supplier to Taiwan and there is broad support for this in Congress.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control and has repeatedly denounced US arms sales to the island.

The New York Times on Friday quoted unnamed US officials as saying that the Trump administration, which is engaged in a major trade war with China, was moving forward with the sale and said the State Department gave informal notification of the plan to the House and Senate foreign affairs committees on Thursday.

The paper said that once those committees gave the go-ahead, which would probably come within days or weeks, there would follow a formal notification to Congress, which would trigger a 30-day period for objections.

The State Department and White House declined to comment.

After the US-approved sales of tanks and Raytheon's anti-aircraft Stinger missiles to Taiwan last month, China said it was "ready to go to war" if people "try to split Taiwan from the country".

Beijing said it would impose sanctions on US companies involved in any deals.

On Thursday, Taiwan unveiled its largest defence spending increase in more than a decade, to NT$411.3 billion (S$18.2 billion).

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 18, 2019, with the headline 'China denounces US' planned F-16 sale to Taiwan'. Print Edition | Subscribe