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US Says Taiwan Arms Sales Will Continue - 2004-07-15

The Bush administration said Wednesday that sales of American defensive arms to Taiwan will continue despite a new warning from China that the sales threaten the United States' relationship with Beijing. Administration officials are rejecting Chinese suggestions that there has been change in the unofficial U.S. relationship with Taiwan, and they say the defensive arms sales provided for in a 1979 act of Congress will continue despite some sharp new criticism from Beijing.

In an unusual news conference in Washington Tuesday, Chinese embassy spokesman Sun Weide said China is gravely concerned over what he said were recent U.S. moves on the Taiwan issue and called the situation quite critical.

He said Beijing strongly urges the United States to stop providing advanced arms and to cut military links to the island, and said otherwise it would harm bilateral relations and Chinese cooperation with Washington on other issues such as the North Korean nuclear program.

At a news briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he did not know what the Chinese official had in mind when he cited recent moves by Washington on Taiwan, insisting that U.S. policy on China and Taiwan has not changed.

He said that in talks with Chinese leaders this month, senior Bush administration officials have clearly stated the U.S. commitment to the one-China policy it has followed since U.S. recognition was shifted from Taiwan to the mainland a quarter-century ago.

Mr. Boucher said the United States has opposed unilateral actions by either side to change the status-quo.

"For Beijing, this means no use of force or other forms of coercion against Taiwan," he said. "For Taipei, it means exercising prudence in managing all aspects of cross-straits relations. We do not support Taiwan independence. For both sides, it means no statements or actions that would unilaterally alter Taiwan's status. We continue the sale of appropriate defensive military equipment to Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act."

Taiwan's cabinet early last month approved a special budget of more than $18 billion to fund purchases of U.S. weapons systems, and a parliamentary delegation visited the United States in late June to discuss specific sales.

Taiwan has been negotiating to purchase, among other items, a modified U.S. Patriot anti-missile system, submarines and anti-submarine aircraft.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has threatened to invade the island if it declared formal independence.

The Taiwan issue figured heavily in talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing last week by White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and also in discussions Secretary of State Colin Powell had with his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing two weeks ago on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting in Jakarta.