China again slams U.S. arms sale to Taiwan

BEIJING, Oct 7 (Reuters) - A $6.5 billion deal to sell U.S. arms to Taiwan has ruined years of work building military trust with China, threatens Beijing’s safety and ignores international law, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The U.S. government on Friday announced plans to sell a massive arms package to Taiwan, including 30 Apache attack helicopters and 330 Patriot missiles.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency told lawmakers that the sale would support Taiwan’s continuing efforts to modernise its military, but Beijing said the deal was reckless, threatened national security and harmed a key diplomatic relationship.

“For many years we have made a positive effort to encourage, and strengthen military ties between China and the U.S.,” spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news conference.

“But the United States ignored China’s serious stance and strong opposition, and is bent on selling weapons to Taiwan, which has contaminated the positive atmosphere for U.S.-China relations.”

China’s vice foreign minister, He Yafei, lodged a strong protest against the deal at the U.S. Embassy last week.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island.

Beijing has vowed in the past to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary. The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, recognising “one China”, but it remains Taiwan’s strongest ally and biggest arms supplier.

The Pentagon said the arms sales were consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, which obliges Washington to help Taipei defend itself. The deals were announced after what analysts had described as a freeze designed to ease tension between Beijing and Taipei, and were quickly lauded in Taiwan.

But Qin said that law rode roughshod over years of agreements between Beijing and Washington.

“The United States has no right to place domestic law above international ones and use it as an excuse to sell weapons to Taiwan,” he said, urging Washington to end military ties with the island which it considers a renegade province.

He added that China was a peaceful power with armed forces that aimed only to defend its territory and people, and the U.S. deal was more of a threat to peaceful development in the region. (Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison and Yu Le; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Fox)