China demanded on Tuesday that the United States ‘immediately cancel’ a potential sale of $2.2 billion in arms to self-ruled Taiwan, including battle tanks and anti-aircraft missiles, adding fuel to tensions between the two powers.
The US later shrugged off China’s complaints, responding that the equipment would contribute to ‘peace and stability’ in Asia.
The sale would be the first transfer of big-ticket US military gear to the democratically governed island in years, and comes as ties between Washington and Beijing are already strained by their trade war.
China has lodged formal complaints through diplomatic channels expressing ‘strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition’ to the move, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.
The deal includes 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger portable anti-aircraft missiles, related equipment and support at an estimated cost of just over $2.2 billion, according to the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency.
The proposed sale ‘will contribute to the modernization of the recipient’s main battle tank fleet’, improve its air defence system and ‘support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security and defensive capability of Taiwan,’ DSCA said.
It would not alter the ‘basic military balance in the region,’ the agency added, and Congress has been notified. US lawmakers have 30 days to object to the sale but are unlikely to do so.
Geng said the proposed deal ‘seriously violates the one-China principle’ and ‘grossly interferes’ in the country’s internal affairs.
‘China urges the US to immediately cancel the planned arms sale and stop military relations with Taipei to avoid damaging Sino-US relations and harming peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,’ he said.
Abrams tanks and Stinger missiles — which are portable and can be quickly moved by soldiers in the field — would significantly increase Taiwan’s ability to counter Chinese armour and warplanes in the event of an invasion.
‘The M1A2 tanks are very reliable and will become an essential part of our ground defence’ because of their manoeuvrability, Lieutenant General Yang Hai-ming of the Taiwanese army told reporters.
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