China is freaking out at the White House over a $1.4B arms sale to Taiwan

China protested Friday the Trump administration’s $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan as a violation of its sovereignty and demanded that the deal be cancelled.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lu Kang said the sale ran counter to China’s vital security interests and would be a gross violation of the stated commitment by the U.S. to a “one China” policy.

“We stress that nobody could sway our determination to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Lu said at a regular daily briefing. “We oppose any external interference in our internal affairs.”

Lu’s remarks were aimed at the $1.42 billion sale of arms to Taiwan announced Thursday by the U.S. State Department.

The package reportedly included technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and components for SM-2 (Standard Missile-2) missiles, one of the U.S. Navy’s primary anti-air weapons. The sales also included AGM-154 Joint Standoff air-to-surface missiles.

USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

In announcing the deal, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the sale did not violate the Taiwan Relations Act that governs U.S. contacts with the island off China’s coast formerly known as Formosa.

“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” Nauert said, adding that “There’s no change, I should point out, to our ‘one-China policy.’”

The last U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, approved during the Obama administration in December 2015, was worth $1.8 billion and included two de-commissioned U.S. Navy frigates, minesweepers, Stinger missiles, and anti-armor and anti-tank missiles.

The State Department and the Pentagon had approved another $1 billion arms sale in December of 2016 similar to the one signed Thursday, but President Barack Obama held off on final approval to allow the incoming Trump administration make the decision.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has long opposed any arms sales to the self-governing island. China has a policy of eventual reunification, and has not ruled out force to achieve it.

The arms sale announcement came at an awkward time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was visiting Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of British rule.

Taiwan was also rattled by the presence in nearby waters of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, the only carrier in China’s growing fleet.

China announced Monday that the Liaoning, accompanied by two destroyers and a frigate, had left its homeport in Qingdao to join the Hong Kong events on a course that would take it through the Taiwan Straits.

U.S. relations with China — and the severing of formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan — were the outgrowth of President Richard Nixon’s “opening to China” in the 1970s. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter established formal relations with China.

Also in 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act guaranteeing U.S. support for Taiwan and aid in its self-defense. The unofficial U.S. presence in Taiwan is maintained via the American Institute in Taiwan, a private corporation which carries out informal diplomatic activities.

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