Beijing said on Wednesday Washington’s decision to upgradeTaiwan’s F-16 fighters would damage military ties between the United States and China, impacting military exchanges and high-level visits.
China has repeatedly condemned the $5.85 billion US deal to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets, summoning the US ambassador and warning the move would undermine warmingmilitary relations if it was not revoked.
On Wednesday, the defence ministry warned that military relations would suffer direct consequences from the deal, without specifying what action it would take.
“In light of the serious damage resulting from the US arms sale to Taiwan, planned China-US military exchanges, including high-level visits and joint exercises, will definitely be impacted,” said ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng.
Geng also urged Washington to “stop arms sales to Taiwan” to avoid “serious damage” to US-China military ties.
Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification — by force if necessary — even though the island has ruled itself since 1949 at the end of a civil war.
Washington recognises Beijing rather than Taipei, but remains a leading arms supplier to the island of 23 million inhabitants, providing a source of continued US-China tension.
Under the deal announced last week, Taiwan will get a retrofit of 145 F-16 A/B fighter jets, which will be equipped with modern weapons and radar capable of detecting China’s new stealth aircraft.
Taiwan and US officials have said the upgrade would improve the island’s defences as it faces a rising China, which has ramped up military spending and widened its strategic edge over the self-governing territory.
The move fell short of Taiwan’s request for 66 new and more powerful F-16 C/D fighters.
Analysts have said the US offer was a piece of diplomatic craftsmanship which showed commitment to the defence of democratic Taiwan, while averting a furious Chinese reaction to a sale.
China froze military exchanges with the United States in 2010 over an earlier arms package, but relations have improved over the past year.
In July, Mike Mullen became the first chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2007 to visit China.
A top US officer on Tuesday played down the potential effect of the latest US arms sale to Taiwan, saying he did not expect Beijing to cut off all military relations.
Admiral Robert Willard, head of the US Pacific Command, said China might delay or cancel some meetings, but would not sever all contacts with the US military.
“I think that regardless of the effects of this particular round of Taiwan arms sales and disagreement between our two governments on that issue, China will be very likely to retain the highest-level visitation that will enable us to continue those strategic level discussions,” Willard told reporters in Washington.