By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer
BEIJING – China’s defense minister has demanded that the U.S. cancel a $6.5 billion arms sale to Beijing and Washington., saying it created “obstacles” in relations between
Liang Guanglie’s remarks are the latest show of pique by Beijing over the arms package that includes Patriot III missiles, Apache helicopters, and parts for F-16 jet fighters.
Washington must “strictly adhere to its commitments on the Taiwan issue, immediately cancel all items regarding arms sales to Taiwan and cease U.S.-Taiwan military relations,” Liang was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday as telling visiting U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
The sale has not “not only damaged relations between the two countries and two militaries, but also created obstacles in exchanges and cooperation in all areas including high level exchanges between the two militaries,” Liang was quoted as saying at his Monday meeting with Hagel.
That was an apparent reference to Beijing’s suspension of some senior-level visits and other planned exchanges, announced earlier this month to the Pentagon but not publicly confirmed by Chinese officials.
Claimed by China as its own territory, Taiwan is a perennial bugbear in relations between Beijing and Washington. China strongly objects to U.S. legislation requiring Washington to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself from Chinese threats to attack if the island moves to cement its de-facto independent status.
However, despite the suspension of high-level military contacts and a further diplomatic protest from Beijing, experts say they don’t anticipate a wider rift developing over the latest arms sale.
Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have eased since the inauguration of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, who has pledged to build bridges with the mainland in contrast to the more confrontational tone taken by his independence-leaning predecessor .