China strongly condemned the latest U.S. plan to sell arms to Taiwan, and is calling on Washington to revoke what it is calling an erroneous decision. It is still unclear if the decision will lead to substantive rifts with Washington, as such sales have in the past.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made clear China's firm opposition to the latest U.S. plan to sell weapons to Taiwan.
Hong called the plan erroneous and said it will "inevitably cause damage to China-U.S. relations." He said the deal will hurt bilateral relations and cooperation in military and security. However the spokesman gave no details when asked about specific retaliatory action.
The spokesman said the plan not only damages Sino-American relations, it undermines China's national security and reunification efforts.
U.S. Embassy officials confirmed that senior Chinese Foreign Ministry officials called in Ambassador Gary Locke over the arms sale.
The Obama administration Wednesday informed the U.S. Congress on plans for a more than $5 billion upgrade of Taiwan's F-16 fighter fleet. The deal did not include new and more advanced F-16 fighter jets, although U.S. officials said those sales may still be considered in the future.
Miles Yu is an East Asia and military history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. He stressed that his views are his own, and he does not speak on behalf of the U.S. government.
Why China is mad
He says he thinks that while the sale will help Taiwan upgrade its military capabilities, the more important issue is how the deal underscores the link between the U.S. and Taiwanese militaries.
"What really China was protesting was not just these fighters, but the fact that the United States is so committed to the defense of Taiwan and Taiwan's democracy and Taiwan's system. And I think that riles China more than anything else," said Yu.
Last year, Beijing suspended military exchanges with the United States after a $6.4 billion arms sale, which included missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and high-tech systems.
Yu says China always has expressed its displeasure at U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, but that the situation is especially sensitive now because of upcoming elections in the United States and in Taiwan.
"China, historically, always tends to overreact on issues like this, and every time they overreact, the election result is against their wish," said Yu.
Taiwan is a separately-governed island that China considers part of its territory. The Chinese government has not renounced using force, if necessary, to prevent the island from declaring independence.
The United States is obliged by U.S. law to help Taiwan defend itself.