- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2010

BEIJING | China has warned the United States against selling arms to Taiwan, amid media speculation that Washington could soon act on the island’s request for new weapons.

“We firmly oppose the U.S. selling arms to Taiwan,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters at a regular briefing Tuesday. She said Beijing has had “serious consultations” with Washington on the issue.

“We urge the U.S. to recognize the gravity of selling arms to Taiwan, … cancel any plans to sell arms to Taiwan and stop selling arms to Taiwan so as not to damage China-U.S. relations.”

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, despite warming ties with Beijing, has appealed to the United States for weapons, saying the island must stay on guard in light of the mainland’s sharp rise in military spending.

China’s military cut off relations with the Pentagon in October 2008 to protest the announcement of U.S. plans to sell $6.5 million in arms to Taiwan, including attack helicopters, missiles and missile defenses.

A Taiwanese defense official said Taipei urgently needs additional F-16 jet fighters to replacing aging F-5 fighters and to bolster its current force of F-16s. Taipei also has asked to buy U.S. Black Hawk helicopters and wants to move ahead with U.S. plans to provide diesel electric submarines.

The Obama administration is weighing the latest arms request and is expected to announce its decision on new arms sales in the next several months, according to U.S. officials.

Washington is the leading arms supplier to self-ruled Taiwan, despite switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949. Beijing still views the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

During his visit to China in November, President Obama reiterated that the United States thinks there was only one China.

U.S. policy on arms sales to Taiwan is outlined in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which calls for supplying defensive arms to Taiwan.

Beijing insists that U.S. arms sales must be phased out under a U.S.-China joint statement signed in the 1980s.

The U.S. defense contractor Raytheon announced in December it had been awarded a contract worth $1.1 billion for new Patriot missile systems to Taiwan, but that the missiles themselves would be part of a separate contract.

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