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International relations

China demands US scrap $2.2bn arms deal with Taiwan

Planned sale risks complicating delicate Beijing-Washington trade talks

The U.S. plans to sell 108 Abrams tanks to Taiwan as part of the $2.2 billion deal.   © Reuters

TAIPEI/BEIJING -- China urged the U.S. on Tuesday to cancel a planned $2.2 billion sale of arms to Taiwan, adding a new wrinkle to the trade tensions between the two countries following a truce reached at the end of last month.

The U.S. should "immediately withdraw ... arms sales to and sever military ties with Taiwan to avoid further damage to bilateral relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said. He cited the "One China" principle as well as joint communiques inked with Washington.

The deal, if realized, would be the largest U.S. arms sale to Taiwan since the $5.8 billion transfer authorized by President Barack Obama's administration in 2011.

Taiwan would receive 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks as well as 250 Stinger missiles, among other military hardware. The U.S. State Department's approval for the possible sale was announced Monday.

Taiwan, which wants to bolster its ability to repel a landing by mainland Chinese forces, welcomed the offer by President Donald Trump's administration.

The office of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday expressed "sincere thanks to the U.S. government for continuing to honor its commitments under the [Taiwan Relations Act] and Six Assurances through concrete action."

But Shuang said the move by Washington "grossly interferes in China's internal affairs and undermines China's sovereignty and security interests." Beijing strongly opposes such actions, he said.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade Chinese province and refuses to rule out military force to bring the island under the mainland's authority. The 40-year-old Taiwan Relations Act and the subsequent Six Assurances are meant to ensure U.S. support for Taipei.

Tsai looks to resist mounting pressure from Beijing by drawing closer to the U.S. The Taiwanese president plans to make stops on American soil around her 12-day tour of Caribbean nations starting Thursday.

Taiwanese media cite speculation that Tsai will meet with U.S. government officials in New York, which would further enrage Beijing.

These latest developments threaten to impact the trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a truce in the trade war at the recent Group of 20 summit in Osaka. While Xi may be willing to make concessions on trade, he will not cede any ground on Taiwan, which China views as a core interest. 

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