Beijing has issued a warning shot to Joe Biden after the US State Department approved his first arms sale to Taiwan, which China said was in violation of a US-China commitment to the “one-China” policy.
The sale, which includes 40 self-propelled howitzers manufactured by BAE Systems and related equipment, is worth an estimated $750 million (£538,691 million), according to reports on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the State Department told CNN: “If concluded, this proposed sale will contribute to the modernisation of Taiwan's howitzer fleet, strengthening its self-defence capabilities to meet current and future threats.”
The Chinese embassy, in a response on Thursday, said the US was interfering in its “internal affairs and undermines China's sovereignty and security interests by selling arms to the Taiwan region.” It went on to warn of “countermeasures” for violating “the one-China principle and provisions of the three China-US joint communiques”. It was not clear what that would entail.
The US state department added on Wednesday that the sale “serves US national, economic and security interests” and “will help improve the security of the recipient [Taiwan] and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region”.
Congress now has 30 days to review the proposed arms sale, which is expected to attract cross-party support in the face of aggression from China towards the US and its support of Taiwan.
The island split from the Chinese mainland and communist rule in 1949, but is claimed by Beijing and is classed as “China” by the United Nations. Any further transition towards independence is viewed by Beijing as a threat to its “one-China” policy.
In May, China asked the Biden administration to reconsider Washington’s stance on Taiwan after Donald Trump approved a $600 million (£430,620) drone sale in November last year, that caused Beijing to warn of a “proper and necessary response”. The sale was carried-out under the Taiwan Relations Act.
Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said on a trip to Taiwan last month that Washington will not “seek confrontation” with China, but that “we will not flinch when our interests are threatened”.
“We're working with Taiwan to increase its own capabilities and to increase its readiness to deter threats and coercion,” Mr Austin said, “upholding our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act and consistent with our one-China policy.”
A spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry added on Thursday it was "firmly opposed" to the Biden administration's proposed sales, which “sends wrong signals to the 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces and seriously damages Sino-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.
The statement said "China will resolutely take proper and necessary countermeasures in accordance with the development of the situation."
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.