By JEREMY PAGE
BEIJING—China has indicated it will suspend or cancel some military exchanges in response to the latest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, but it has stopped short of a full suspension of bilateral defense ties, according to a senior State Department official.
Yang Jiechi, China’s foreign minister, asked the U.S. to reconsider the $5.3 billion package—consisting mainly of upgrades for Taiwan’s existing fighter jets—in a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York on Monday, the official told reporters in a briefing there. The Obama administration disclosed plans to sell the upgrades last week.
Mr. Yang didn’t threaten specific consequences, but other Chinese officials in previous meetings had “underscored a series of steps that they will be taking in response to the U.S. decision,” the official said, according to a transcript on the State Department website.
“I think they have indicated that they’re going to suspend or to cancel or postpone a series of…military-to-military engagements,” the official was quoted as saying.
The official said that didn’t amount to a full suspension of military ties. “Some activities, as part of the military-to-military program, will be postponed, rescheduled or canceled,” the official said. “It’s not unusual that some of those will come over time, not announced immediately.”
China, which sees Taiwan as part of the mainland to be unified by force if necessary, responded to the previous package of U.S. arms for the island, unveiled in January 2010, by suspending all military ties for 12 months starting from the day after the deal was announced.
The Obama administration informed Congress last Wednesday of the latest deal, which includes upgrades for the island’s existing Lockheed Martin F-16 A/B fighter jets but doesn’t involve sales of new F-16 C/Ds that Taiwan was also seeking.
China has responded with pro forma verbal protests. Its Foreign Ministry summoned the new U.S. ambassador, Gary Locke, and the Defense Ministry called in the acting U.S. defense attache, both warning that bilateral ties—including military links—would be damaged.
But Beijing’s rhetoric has been more measured than in the past, and it has yet to take concrete action—leading some analysts to conclude that Beijing and Washington had tacitly agreed on a compromise whereby the U.S. would n’t sell Taiwan the new fighter jets.
Asked about the State Department official’s remarks about a partial suspension of military exchanges, China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued a statement similar to the one it made shortly after the arms deal was announced last week.
“The wrong actions by the U.S. in the Taiwan Strait will inevitably harm U.S.-China relations, as well as security and military cooperation and exchanges,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing. “The responsibility is entirely on the U.S. side.”
Analysts say that China, while stopping short of a complete suspension of military ties, could cancel or postpone individual engagements, such as joint antipiracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden, which were scheduled to be held before the end of the year.
The two sides are also due to conduct talks on maritime safety and cooperation at the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, as well as senior military medical exchanges in Washington, D.C., Hawaii and Texas, U.S. officials say, although precise dates haven’t been announced.
China confirmed those plans during a visit by Adm. Mike Mullen, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Beijing in July, and also committed to future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exchanges and joint exercises in 2012, according to U.S. officials.
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- Taiwan arms: Less rancour this time (Lowy Institute) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)