China urges US to halt arms sales to Taiwan

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BEIJING (AP) — China has reiterated its opposition to American arms sales to Taiwan, calling them an interference in Beijing’s internal affairs that could undermine relations with the United States.

Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei’s comments — the sixth official announcement in a week against the arms sales, according to the state-run news agency — underscore Beijing’s sensitivity to the idea Washington may be conferring legitimacy on the island’s government while boosting its defenses.

Communist-ruled China split with Taiwan amid civil war in 1949 and continues to regard the self-governing democracy as part of its territory, triggering frequent diplomatic spats with the United States, which pledged to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself in 1979.

In the most recent announcement Saturday, He said China expressed its strong dissatisfaction to recent moves by the U.S. government to award contracts for Taiwan-bound weapons to Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin Corp., according to the Xinhua News Agency.

On Friday, Defense Ministry spokesman Huang Xueping said the arms sales undermined mutual trust between the two militaries and that China “reserved the right to take further actions.”

China responded to the last U.S. arms offer by rejecting Hong Kong port calls by the USS Kitty Hawk and other American ships in November 2007.

In recent weeks, the United States awarded a $969 million contract to Lockheed Martin for the provision of 263 PAC-3 air defense missiles to Taiwan and a $1.1 billion contract to Raytheon Co. for production of the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System for Taiwan.

Weapon sales were approved in the first term of former President George W. Bush, but have encountered a series of delays.

These sales are driven by threats from China to use force to bring the island under its control, backed up by an estimated 1,300 Chinese ballistic missiles positioned along the Taiwan Strait.