- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2010

China’s reaction to the latest U.S. arms sale to Taiwan includes the first public warning that Beijing will impose sanctions on U.S. companies that sell weapons to the island.

Beijing also announced it is again limiting military relations with the Pentagon, upsetting a key element of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ policy of engaging China’s military.

Chinese officials announced over the weekend they are cutting off most military exchanges with the Pentagon and will sanction U.S. defense companies involved in the latest arms package offered to Taiwan.

The Pentagon announced Friday that it had formally notified Congress of the proposed arms sale. It was the first new arms package since an October 2008 congressional notification.

The arms package includes offers to sell two mine-hunting ships, 60 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 12 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 114 Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems, and 35 ship-based communications systems. The total value of the arms sale, if Taiwan goes ahead with the purchases, is $6.392 billion.

“We regret that the Chinese side has curtailed military-to-military and other exchanges,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Sunday. “We also regret Chinese action against U.S. firms transferring defensive articles to Taiwan.”

Mr. Morrell said that as of Sunday the Pentagon had not received a formal notice of the Chinese sanctions or exchange cutoff. Ending exchanges likely will mean cancellation of planned visits to China this year by Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Other exchanges that will be affected include exchange visits by U.S. and Chinese military officers and several ship visits.

Mr. Morrell said last week that Mr. Gates believes the U.S.-China relationship is too important to be disrupted by the “fits and starts” of recent years. “This relationship has to be important enough to both of us — not just us, both of us — to continue to focus on this and do the hard work it requires to continue to engage, even when times get tough,” he said Wednesday.

China’s announcement that economic sanctions will be imposed on U.S. companies that sell arms to Taiwan is a new response to arms sales, U.S. officials said.

Most of the U.S. companies involved in the latest arms sale are defense contractors who currently are barred from military sales to China under sanctions imposed after the 1989 military crackdown on unarmed protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

However, one company that could be harmed is Boeing, which has a number of cooperative ventures with China on civilian aircraft. Boeing’s subsidiary, the McDonnell Douglas Co., is offering two types of advanced Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles to Taiwan in the latest arms package.

A Boeing spokesman had no immediate comment on the Chinese threat to impose sanctions.

Sikorsky, the company that makes civilian passenger helicopters in addition to Black Hawks, also could be affected.

Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin, builders of Patriot PAC-3 systems, could be sanctioned as well.

Larry Wortzel, a former military attache posted to Beijing, said China in the past has reacted to U.S. arms sales by shifting some of its orders for commercial aircraft from Boeing to Airbus.

Story Continues →