US official: China cancels some military exchanges with US over arms sales to Taiwan

By Associated Press, Published: September 26

NEW YORK — China plans to cancel or postpone some U.S.-China military exchanges after Washington last week announced it would upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets, a senior U.S. official said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Monday with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who urged the U.S. to reconsider the arms sale, warning it would undermine the trust and confidence between the two sides.

China regards self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory and cut military ties with the U.S. for several months after the last major arms sale, including Black Hawk helicopters, announced in early 2010.

China’s response this time has been more restrained, apparently because the U.S. did not agree to sell new F-16 plans that Taiwan also wants.

The U.S. is obligated under legislation passed by Congress in 1979 to supply Taiwan with weapons for its self-defense. The military balance across the 100-mile (160-kilometer) -wide Taiwan Strait has tipped heavily in the mainland’s favor, as Beijing has ramped up defense spending in the past decade or more.

At Monday’s meeting, Yang did not threaten any specific consequences over the latest $5.85 billion sale. But the senior U.S. official said he was told by Chinese officials in other meetings that China would suspend, cancel or reschedule some military-to-military exchanges.

The official gave no further details and spoke on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.

The Obama administration has deepened ties with Beijing, and sees the military exchanges as mitigating the risk of U.S. forces tangling with China’s in East Asia and the West Pacific. In July, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, traveled to China, the first visit of its kind in four years. That followed a visit to the U.S. in May by his Chinese counterpart, Chen Bingde.

Clinton said Monday that the upcoming weeks and months will be difficult diplomatic times and there is a great need for the U.S. and China to coordinate and cooperate. She defended the arms sale as a U.S. action to maintain peace and security across the Taiwan Strait, and voiced U.S. support the improvement in ties between the mainland and Taiwan.

Last year, Taiwan and China inked a historic trade pact, and tensions are at their lowest since the two sides split amid civil war in 1949.

Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers have criticized President Barack Obama’s decision not to authorize the sales to Taiwan new planes, a deal worth billions to the arms industry. But Democrat senators last week blocked legislation introduced by Republican Sen. John Cornyn aimed at forcing Obama to allow the sales of 66 F-16s.


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