President Obama signed legislation on Thursday approving the sale of four Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates, the first military hardware sale to Taiwan since 2011, when the United States transferred upgrades to F-16 fighter jets.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Qin Gang, said Friday during a regularly scheduled news conference that China “is firmly opposed to the arms sales by the U.S. to Taiwan.” He added that the warship transfer “brutally interferes in China’s domestic affairs and undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests.”
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry indicated this year that it would probably buy only two of the vessels, and Taiwan’s government must still approve the purchase. The frigates were built in the early 1980s and have either been decommissioned or soon will be. A price has not been announced.
The potential for armed conflict has at times made the Taiwan Strait one of the world’s most worrisome hot spots. In recent years, tensions between the two sides have eased as Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, has pursued closer economic links with China. Cross-strait trade and visitors to Taiwan from China have risen significantly during Mr. Ma’s six and a half years in office.
China has not ruled out the use of force to prevent any formal declaration of independence from Taiwan, and President Xi Jinping has sent stern signals to the island. Last year, he said political disputes with Taiwan could not be handed down “from generation to generation.” In September, he suggested that Taiwan adopt a “one country, two systems” relationship like mainland China has with Hong Kong.
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act authorises the United States to provide Taiwan with “arms of a defensive character.” China, which has a much larger military than Taiwan, regularly protests such sales. In 2010, Beijing called off military exchanges with Washington for about a year over the announcement of a $6.4 billion deal to sell Black Hawk helicopters, air defence missiles and mine hunting ships to Taiwan.
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