China slams US arms sales to Taiwan

American weapon dealers have “swarmed” to Taiwan, seeking new business opportunities, Beijing has said.

US military support for Taiwan is turning the island into a “powder keg” and risks igniting a regional conflict, China has warned, urging Washington to cease weapon sales to Taipei, while warning of “consequences” for countries that interfere in its internal affairs.

Asked about the Taiwan-US Defense Industry Forum held in Taipei earlier this week, which brought together a number of US and local arms dealers, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said continued weapons sales to the island “seriously violate” past agreements with the US.

“Lately the US and the Taiwan authorities have been stepping up military collusion. A delegation of 25 US arms dealers swarmed to the island and held with [Taiwanese] authorities the ‘defense forum,’” she said, adding that the meeting is “further proof that the US is turning Taiwan into a ‘powder keg,’ which only spells trouble for our Taiwan compatriots.”

At the industry event, Taiwanese officials said they would seek help from Washington to develop a new generation of fighter jets, hoping to receive assistance in designing a plane from top to bottom.

Though the White House has refused to supply more advanced aircraft like the F-22 or F-35, officials approved a major sale of F-16 fighters in 2019. Deliveries were originally slated for later this year, but were pushed forward to late 2024, according to Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, who cited production and supply-chain problems. Once complete, the shipments will make the island’s F-16 fleet the largest in Asia, with more than 200 jets, according to Reuters.

Washington has authorized a long list of weapon deals with Taiwan in recent years, but several have yet to come to fruition, leaving a backlog of sales worth $19 billion. Some US lawmakers have called for the transfers to be accelerated, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stressing the need to do so during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen last month.

China, which considers Taiwan to be part of its sovereign territory, went on to urge the US to “stop arms sales to and military contact with” the island, warning such moves will “cause tensions in the Taiwan Strait” and trigger a reaction from Beijing.

“The Chinese side will take strong and resolute measures to firmly defend our sovereignty and security interests,” Mao continued. “Any external forces that interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait shall bear the consequences and pay for their erroneous acts.”

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