China Denounces US
Missile Sale to Taiwan
By Benjamin Kang Lim
BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday denounced U.S. plans to sell missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes worth $350 million to Taiwan, warning that such moves would sabotage peaceful reunification between the two rivals. ``We demand the U.S. government strictly abide by the August 17 Sino-U.S. communique through practical action and stop any moves that violate China's sovereignty and sabotage China's peaceful reunification,'' a foreign ministry spokesman said. The communique, signed between Beijing and Washington in 1982, calls for the United States to gradually reduce arms sales to Taiwan in terms of quantity and quality. The U.S. Defence Department said on Thursday the United States planned to sell $350 million in missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes to Taiwan. ``The U.S. side has ignored the consistent opposition of the Chinese side and continuously sold advanced weapons to Taiwan, violating the August 17 communique,'' the spokesman said. ``The Chinese side expresses its resolute opposition to this,'' he said. Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979 but has continued to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan over protests from China. Beijing has regarded Taiwan as a rebel province since the Communists won the Chinese civil war and drove the defeated Nationalists into exile in 1949. The Pentagon said the proposed sale of 61 vehicle-mounted ``Stinger'' anti-aircraft missile launchers and 728 missiles for $180 million would be included in the requested package. It would not be the first sale of mobile Stingers, made by the Hughes Aircraft Co division of Raytheon Co, to Taiwan. The package would also include 131 MK-46 torpedoes and associated equipment made by Hughes Aircraft Co for $69 million, it said. The final part of the proposed package would be 58 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and eight Harpoon training missiles for $101 million. The weapons, which would be mounted on Taiwan's U.S.-made F-16 attack jets, are made by Boeing Co. Taiwan says it must maintain a strong defence in the face of China's longstanding pledge to use force against the island if it opts for independence. Taipei denies dreams of independence and says it is committed to reunification with China, but insists Beijing must embrace democracy first. China's State Council or cabinet, issued a defence policy report in July, maintaining that it had the right to use military force against Taiwan. The report warned other countries not to sell weapons to Taiwan or shield it under defence umbrellas. Taiwan's potential for triggering regional conflict was underscored in March 1996 when China conducted missile tests and war games near the island in the run-up to its first direct presidential elections. The United States sent aircraft carriers to the area, which saw Sino-U.S. ties plunge to their lowest ebb since rapprochement began in the early 1970s. See-sawing Sino-U.S. ties have recovered since the military stand-off and reached a new high when U.S. President Bill Clinton visited China from June 25 to July 3. President Jiang Zemin visited the United States last October, the first Chinese head of state to set foot on U.S. soil since 1989 when the army crushed student-led demonstrations for democracy in Beijing.