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Taiwan arms sale will disrupt US exchanges: China

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Taiwan's F-16 fighters.

BEIJING (AP): China’s military exchanges with the US will suffer after Washington announced a USD 5.85 billion arms package for Taiwan, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday, confirming expectations that Beijing would retaliate over the sale.

High-level exchanges, joint drills, and other large-scale activities will be affected “in light of the serious damage” resulting from the sale, ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a news conference open to Chinese reporters only.

That follows a months-long suspension of military contacts last year after the announcement of another arms deal for Taiwan. China views such exchanges as a political bargaining chip, frustrating US officials who say they are important in building confidence and avoiding confrontations as China’s military modernises.

It wasn’t clear whether additional retaliation would be taken.

Chinese Vice President and future leader Xi Jinping is expected to make an important visit to Washington in coming months but no specific dates have been announced.

There have also been calls in the media and the military for commercial reprisals against companies involved in the arms package, but China’s own fledgling commercial aerospace and other high-tech industries rely heavily on American technical expertise.

Separately, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said US military ties with Taiwan risked “undermining overall interests of bilateral relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

“We hope the US government responds to China’s requests ... (to) stop selling arms to Taiwan, and cease military links with Taiwan,” Hong said at a daily news briefing.

China regards self-governing Taiwan, which is 100 miles (160 kilometres) off the coast of the mainland, as part of its territory.
The US is obligated under legislation passed by Congress in 1979 to provide the island with weapons for its self-defence.

The US sparked Chinese anger by agreeing to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of 145 F-16 fighters that the US sold it in the 1990s, although it deferred a request to sell the island a more advanced version of the plane.

US officials said Chinese diplomats had earlier told them China would respond by cancelling or postponing some US-China military exchanges.

However, the chief of US forces in the Pacific, Adm Robert Willard, said Tuesday that Beijing was very likely to retain the highest-level exchanges of visits because of their importance to China, allowing the two sides to continue strategic discussions.

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