Counter arms sale with tough action: Experts

10:06, January 11, 2010      

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United States' plan to sell billions of dollars worth of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, announced last Wednesday, continued to evoke strong reactions, with Chinese defense analysts yesterday suggesting Beijing adopt tough counter measures - including postponement or cancellation of military exchanges - against Washington.

Officials of two key Chinese ministries - foreign affairs and defense - were quick to issue as many as six statements denouncing the deal over the last five days.

The sale plan comes at a sensitive time when Sino-US relations have made big strides, especially following US President Barack Obama's trip to Beijing last November.

Defense experts in Beijing said the conflict was essentially strategic rather than confrontational. The US and China have now entered a period where "game theory" is being applied to bilateral relations, they said.

Even so, the ties are likely to be strained only over the short term, not indefinitely, the experts said.

The sale rounds out a broad $6.5-billion arms package approved under former US president George W Bush in late 2008, and allows US companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, two of the country's biggest armaments manufacturers, to sell an "unspecified number of" Patriot air defense missiles system to Taiwan.

The hardware, some of the best in its class, has the capability to intercept the mainland's short-range and mid-range missiles, Reuters earlier quoted defense analysts as saying.

"The deal is unnecessary; especially at a time when tensions across the Taiwan Straits have eased quite a bit," said Wu Miaofa, a former Chinese delegate to the UN and currently an analyst at the China Institute for International Studies (CIIS).

Wu said Washington was actually aiming to "contain" Beijing's rise (through the deal).

Over the last week, the foreign ministry expressed Beijing's "strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" to the sale.

"We strongly urge the US to respect China's core interest and grave concerns, and immediately stop its arms sale to Taiwan to avoid harming Sino-US cooperation," said Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei on Saturday, the sixth official condemnation of the move in less than a week.

Taiwan is "the most important and sensitive issue at the core of Sino-US relations," he said, adding the sale violated the August 17 Communiqu signed by the two countries in 1982.

"The United States government states that it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those supplied in recent years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan," the document states.

Jiang Yu, the foreign ministry's spokeswoman, too had denounced the sale, and urged the US "to abandon its Cold War mentality" and "see clearly how severely" the sales would affect bilateral ties.

Senior Colonel Huang Xueping, the defense ministry spokesman, on Friday asked Washington to break off its military relationship with Taiwan, "to avoid further harm to peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits".

"We reserve the right to take further action," Huang warned.

Wu from the CIIS suggested that China should back its tough rhetoric with concrete action.

"China now has more bargaining chips with the US than before," he said, pointing out that the US had sought Beijing's help in the global war on terror, and on the Afghanistan and Iran issues.

Ji Shuoming, a commentator at the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, said the Sino-US relationship was in a "game theory" period following the upswing in bilateral ties after Obama became the US president a year ago.

Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, an expert on US military affairs at the China Academy of Military Science, said the deal was more likely to bring short-term pain to bilateral ties than long-term harm.

Zhao said the two powers "won't enter (a period of) total confrontation", but that "China would certainly postpone or cancel some ongoing military cooperation and exchanges."

Military relations have improved steadily, with consultations on defense matters - which had been suspended for 18 months - resuming since June last year.

The Vice-Chairman of China's Central Military Commission, Xu Caihou, became the first senior Chinese military leader to visit Washington after Obama took over when he toured the country last October.

During that visit, the two powers decided on more military exchanges, including a planned trip by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Beijing this year.

Rear Admiral Yang Yi, an expert at the Institute of Strategic Studies under the Beijing-based National Defense University, said it was "too early to say" whether Gates' scheduled visit would be affected by the arms sale fracas.

"But (the sale) will certainly affect strategic trust, normal inter-military exchanges, and Sino-US cooperation on important regional and global issues," he said.

"Let the US wait and see, counter-measures will come out one after the other," Yang said, without elaborating.

Source:China Daily
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