China: U.S. Shouldn't Sell Arms to Taiwan


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Feb 19, 2009
BEIJING - China told the United States on Feb. 27 that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan remained a major obstacle to easing military tensions, as the world powers resumed defense contact here after a five-month suspension.

The start of the talks had raised hopes of greater cooperation on security issues and an easing of enduring tensions, after China cut military exchanges in anger over the proposed $6.5 billion U.S. arms package to Taiwan.

China's offer to once again hold the annual talks was widely seen as an olive branch extended to the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

But the head of the Chinese delegation signaled a tough approach in his opening remarks, emphasizing that there were problems between the two sides and it was up to the United States to fix them.

"China-U.S. military relations remain in a difficult period. We expect the U.S. side to take concrete measures for the resumption and development of our military ties," Qian Lihua, co-chair of the talks and defence ministry press director, said in comments quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Qian emphasised that the two days of talks in Beijing did not mean that the suspended military exchanges - such as more senior-level contacts and disaster relief co-ordination - would automatically resume.

"Frankly speaking, it will take a long time to restore our military exchanges as not a single obstacle in military ties has been removed so far," he said, specifically mentioning arms sales to Taiwan.

The situation of Taiwan, a democratically ruled island claimed by China, has long been one of the most sensitive issues in Sino-U.S. relations.

The planned U.S. arms package that derailed military exchanges could still go ahead, and if it is carried out, Taiwan would receive advanced weaponry, including 30 Apache attack helicopters and 330 Patriot missiles.

The Pentagon has also proposed selling Taiwan 30 AH-64 Apache Longbow attack helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire missiles to beef up its anti-armor capabilities, and for close air support of its ground forces.

The helicopters are worth up to $2.5 billion, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Taiwan and the mainland have been governed separately since they split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, but Beijing sees the island as part of its territory that is awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Both sides have stationed vast weaponry on their own side of the Taiwan Strait in the event of war between them.

Qian's comments appeared to douse hopes that Taiwan would be less of an obstacle to Sino-U.S. ties now that the island is ruled by a relatively China-friendly president less likely than his predecessor to push for independence.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney, who headed the U.S. delegation, told Qian he was looking to deepen dialogue between the sides, according to Xinhua.

"We must increase communications to reduce the chance of strategic misunderstanding," Xinhua quoted Sedney as saying.

Sino-U.S. military relations remain marked by deep tensions over other issues aside from Taiwan.

Mistrust has grown as China has poured money into modernizing its armed forces in recent years, fueling concerns in the United States that it plans to project its power more boldly in the region.

The talks are taking place just days before China unveils its military budget for 2009, likely announcing yet another large increase in defense spending.

The United States and its allies have repeatedly accused China of not being transparent with its military spending.

Aside from Xinhua, there was no foreign media access to the talks. But U.S. officials were to hold a press round table Feb. 28.

Sedney will also meet with Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese army, before leaving for South Korea, Xinhua said.

The talks, which began in 1997, were last held in February 2008.

Yeah right, as if US is going to stop selling arms to one of its top ally

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