China Says U.S.-Taiwan Arms Package 'Seriously Undermines' Peace

China has cautioned the United States about spiraling tensions across the Taiwan Strait after the Biden administration approved a new arms sale to Taiwan.

In a Tuesday notification to Congress, the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the approval of ship parts and logistical assistance to Taiwan's navy, worth $120 million, in what is to be the fourth arms package for the island under Biden.

Since the end of formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Taipei in 1979, arms sales to Taiwan have been conducted under provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, which passed Congress that same year. The law allows the U.S. to provide the island with arms of a defensive character.

"This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient's continuing efforts to maintain a credible defensive capability. The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region," the DSCA notice said.

China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, has long protested the arms transfers. The latest deal "seriously undermines China's sovereignty and security interests, and seriously undermines China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," said Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

"China firmly opposes and strongly condemns it," he said at a regular media briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

Zhao also accused Washington of reneging on its commitments under a joint communique issued on August 17, 1982, when it signaled an intention to reduce arms transfers to Taiwan. However, the U.S. maintains a reduction in arms sales would be contingent on China's commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-strait disputes.

China has refused publicly to rule out the use of force in its goal of bringing Taiwan under its control. Observers see Beijing's growing military capability as one of the tools it can use to coerce Taipei into accepting a favorable political settlement.

U.S. Approves $120M Deal For Taiwan Navy
Taiwan’s domestically produced Tuo Chiang-class corvette ROCS Ta Chiang is paraded to demonstrate its combat readiness during a drill at sea off Keelung, Taiwan, on January 7, 2022. The United States approved the sale of an arms package for Taiwan’s navy on June 8, 2022. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Asked about the subject last year, Defense Department spokesperson John Supple told Newsweek: "The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act and based on an assessment of Taiwan's defense needs and the threat posed by the [People's Republic of China], as has been the case for more than 40 years."

"I would note, the PRC has stepped up efforts to intimidate and pressure Taiwan and other allies and partners, including increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, East China Sea, and South China Sea which we believe are destabilizing and increase the risk of miscalculation," he said.

Wednesday's arms package was the fourth approved by the Biden administration and the third this year. It follows a $750 million deal to purchase 40 M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers from the U.S. in August 2021, as well as service and equipment deals this February and April for Taiwan's Patriot missile systems at a cost of $100 million and $95 million, respectively.

The Pentagon's DSCA said the latest deal would "contribute to the sustainment of the recipient's surface vessel fleet, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats."

"The proposed sale will contribute to the recipient's goal of maintaining its military capability while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allies," the agency said.

Taipei welcomed the deal on Thursday. Its foreign ministry said it would help Taiwan "maintain a robust defense."