BEIJING, Sept 22 China's top newspaper warned
the United States on Thursday that it will pay for selling arms
to Taiwan through less cooperation from Beijing, continuing a
drumbeat of angry words that appears likely to unsettle, yet not
derail, relations with Washington.
China's Foreign Ministry has already denounced the Obama
administration's confirmation to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday
that it planned a $5.3 billion upgrade of Taiwan's F-16 fighter
fleet, warning that the move would damage Sino-American military
and security links.
The People's Daily, the main paper of China's ruling
Communist Party, added to the condemnation and warned the United
States it has a big economic stake in ties with China.
"Every time the U.S. plans to sell weapons on a large scale
to Taiwan, it unavoidably subjects China-U.S. relations to
torment and bilateral cooperation is damaged," said a commentary
in the paper.
"We've never placed our hopes in the United States putting
trust ahead of interests in its national agenda. But even from
the viewpoint of national interests, insisting on selling arms
to Taiwan is by no means a wise step by the U.S."
China considers self-governed Taiwan an illegitimate
breakaway from mainland rule, and opposes U.S. arms sales to the
island on the grounds they sabotage Beijing's plans for
reunification. Washington says it wants Beijing and Taipei to
decide their future peacefully, and is obliged by U.S. law to
help Taiwan defend itself.
Despite Beijing's ire, the tensions appear unlikely to match
last year's, when Chinese anger over an earlier U.S. arms offer
to Taiwan added to several disputes that roiled relations with
Washington for many months.
In January 2010, China froze military-to-military ties and
threatened sanctions against U.S. arms makers after President
Barack Obama approved a potential $6.4 billion arms sale to
Taiwan left over from the administration of George W. Bush.
This year, however, both sides have attempted to keep
relations on a steadier path ahead of 2012, when Obama faces
re-lection and China's Communist Party undergoes a leadership
"IRRESPONSIBLE AND WANTON"
The People's Daily said the Obama administration's decision
would nonetheless carry a price in ties with China.
"American politicians are totally mistaken if they believe
they can, on the one hand, demand that China behave as a
responsible great power and cooperate with the United States on
this and that issue, while on the other hand irresponsibly and
wantonly damaging China's core interests," said the paper.
"Have these American politicians considered which weighs
more -- selling weapons to Taiwan or China-U.S. economic and
trade cooperation?" the commentary asked.
The upgrade of Taiwan's 145 F-16s will give them much the
same capabilities as late-model F-16 C/Ds that Taiwan has sought
for five years without success, U.S. officials said.
The Pentagon said Taiwan had also requested 176
state-of-the-art Active Electronically Scanned Array, or AESA,
radar sets, as well as advanced air-to-air missiles, laser- and
GPS-guided bombs and other weapons systems for its F-16 fleet.
All together, the potential sales total $5.85 billion.
In Taipei, Taiwan's defence ministry said the F-16 upgrade
will contribute to regional peace by improving its defence
capability in the face of what it called a continued threat from
China. Taiwan would keep pressing for new F-16s, the ministry
said in a statement.
The Obama administration is required by law to notify
Congress of any proposed major arms sale. The sale may go ahead
after 30 days unless Congress enacts a joint resolution blocking
it in the allotted time.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, has proposed
mandating the sale of at least 66 new F-16 C/D fighters to
Taiwan as an amendment to legislation now being considered on
the Senate floor.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)