* Sales to Taiwan could add to U.S.-Chinese strains
* Package includes Black Hawk helicopters, PAC-3 missiles
* Total value could be $6.4 billion
* U.S. officials hope to keep China ties stable
(Adds U.S. official's comments, paragraph 13)
By Jim Wolf and Paul Eckert
WASHINGTON, Jan 29 The Obama administration
notified the U.S. Congress on Friday of its first proposed arms
sales to Taiwan, a potential $6.4 billion package bound to add
to rising U.S.-China strains over trade and cyber security.
The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency proposed
five separate sales, including 60 UH-60M Black Hawk
helicopters, 114 Patriot "Advanced Capability-3" anti-missile
missiles, and a command-and-control enhancement known as
Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems.
The United States also would supply 12 advanced Harpoon
missiles capable of both land-strike and anti-ship missions,
plus two refurbished Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, the
security agency said in notices to Congress.
The announcement on Friday follows sparring over cyber
attacks and censorship that prompted the U.S. search engine
Google Inc (GOOG.O) to threaten to quit the China market, as
well as broader trade disputes and friction over President
Barack Obama's expected meeting with Tibet's exiled leader, the
China since 1949 has regarded the self-ruled island as a
wayward province subject to unification with the communist-run
mainland, by force if necessary.
The United States, Taiwan's main arms supplier, is mandated
under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to aid Taiwan's
self-defense. The law was enacted when Washington switched
diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei.
A U.S. State Department official played down the chances of
the sale disrupting U.S.-Chinese relations.
"We have worked through these issues before. We will work
through them again," said the official, who spoke to reporters
on condition that he not be identified by name.
A senior U.S. official, also speaking on condition of
anonymity, told reporters in a teleconference that a Chinese
embassy official had been called in on Friday morning to be
told of the proposed sales before they were announced but there
was no earlier notice given to Beijing.
Taiwan also has sought to buy 66 U.S. Lockheed Martin
F-16C/D fighter jets to upgrade its F-16 fleet. Such a sale
could seriously roil U.S.-China ties.
"We have discussed that with them on a variety of occasions
and we're in the process of assessing Taiwan's needs and
requirements for that capability," the senior U.S. official
said. He declined to say when a decision on this would come.
U.S. arms sales are designed to reassure Taipei and
maintain a balance across the Taiwan Strait, where China has
deployed more than 1,000 missiles to back up its territorial
claim. China's posture has not eased despite the election of
China-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008.
"There's a connection between what Beijing does in its
military modernization and the threat they pose to the island
and the types of sales that we authorize," said another senior
U.S. official who also briefed reporters.
China usually responds to U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan with
stern diplomatic protests. Beijing underscores its anger by
freezing military-to-military relations -- contacts sought by
Washington to build confidence and avoid accidental clashes.
China suspended military-to-military contacts with the
United States after then-President George W. Bush notified
Congress in October 2008 of plans to sell Taiwan a long-delayed
arms package also valued at about $6.4 billion.
The notice of a potential sale is required by law and does
not mean a deal has been concluded. The Pentagon said the
proposed new sales would serve U.S. national, economic and
security interests by backing Taiwan's defense capabilities.
The Black Hawk, a tactical transport helicopter, is built
by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp
(UTX.N). The sale of 60 of them would be worth $3.1 billion,
the notification said.
The PAC-3 missile is built by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N),
and Raytheon Co (RTN.N) is the system integrator. The value of
114 of them along with radar sets and related gear was
estimated by the Pentagon at $2.8 billion.
Lockheed was the prime contractor for the original "Po
Sheng" (Broad Victory) program, designed to integrate Taiwan's
air, marine, ground and command-and-control assets in a single
network. The new command-and-control technology would be worth
about $340 million, the Pentagon said.
Omitted from the new package was design work on
diesel-electric submarines, something Bush had offered Taiwan
as early as 2001. The submarine work was dropped because of a
lack of consensus among Taiwanese leaders on whether to go
ahead with the project, said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president
of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council.
Bush had cleared both the submarines and the Black Hawks
for sale in April 2001 but skipped including them when he
finally sent Congress his 2008 arms package after much debate
in Taiwan's legislative Yuan.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a Sept. 16
speech that investments by countries like China in anti-ship
weaponry "could threaten America's primary way to project power
and help allies in the Pacific -- in particular our forward air
bases and carrier strike groups."
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Will Dunham)