US arms package to Taiwan irks China

China is likely to cut off several military exchanges with the US Pacific Command, and cancel some high-level visits.

Washington: The Obama administration is expected to announce Wednesday the sale of a package of weapons and equipment worth $5.8 billion to upgrade Taiwan`s fleet of 145 F-16 jets - something that has irked China.

The Pentagon is, as a result, bracing for some cutbacks in military and other cooperation with China due to the arms package for Taiwan, writes the Washington Times.

China is likely to cut off several military exchanges with the US Pacific Command, and cancel some high-level visits, and also limit cooperation with Washington on arms proliferation, US officials familiar with assessment of the arms sale told the daily.

However, the officials said they do not expect a complete break in military ties with Beijing, as occurred temporarily in 2008 and last year after some deals were announced.

While agreeing to the arms package for Taiwan, the US, however, rejected a proposal to offer Taiwan 66 new and more advanced F-16 C/D jets.

Administration officials briefed Congress on the deal Friday. They are defending the decision not to sell new jets by asserting that the upgrades will give modernised Taiwanese F-16s a "near C/D" capability.

According to officials, China`s government also lobbied with senior US officials against selling new jets.

In Beijing, a government spokesman criticised plans for the upgrade. China views the island as a breakaway province.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters Friday that "China firmly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan" and called on the Obama administration to abide by a 1982 joint US-China communique and "stop selling arms to Taiwan".

China`s People`s Daily, the ruling Communist Party newspaper, in an editorial recently wrote that China should use "financial weapons" against the US if it sells new F-16s to Taiwan, even if doing so would isolate China.

A report in the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times on Monday said that, despite its opposition to Taiwan`s F-16 upgrade, China is not expected to halt all military exchanges.

The newspaper quoted a Chinese editor as saying a cutoff of all military ties would heighten concerns about China`s expanding military power.

The Obama administration has been seeking closer military ties with China.


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