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Sunday 25 February 2018

China warns US that Taiwan clash will have knock-on effect

Tania Branigan in Beijing and Paul Harris in New York

China and the US were set for renewed confrontation yesterday following Washington's announcement of a $6.4bn (€4.6bn) arms deal with Taiwan.

Sanctions were imposed on US companies involved in the deal as China warned of further repercussions. The country's foreign ministry said: "It will be unavoidable that co-operation between China and the United States over important international and regional issues will also be affected."

The foreign ministry statement will add to concerns about the knock-on effects of the deal and whether it will hinder the prospect of new sanctions against Iran at the UN security council.

Despite China's reluctance to act against its ally, the US was hopeful that it could win its backing if Russia was on board. Beijing will postpone high-level consultation on strategic security, arms control, and non-proliferation issues, it said. The defence ministry said it was suspending military exchanges because of the "harmful and odious effect" of the deal.

The dispute comes amid growing tensions over issues including trade, climate change and internet censorship. "This is the strongest reaction we have seen in recent years," said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt of the International Crisis Group.

But she added: "Our real sense is that China is looking to see what reaction it will receive from Barack Obama."

"This decision is consistent with US policy of providing arms for the defence of Taiwan," a US State Department spokesman said. "The Chinese, of course, are concerned about it, but I don't think their reaction goes beyond what we expected."

The arms deal includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and minehunter ships. But, in an indication of US concern about Beijing's reaction, it does not include F-16 fighter jets or design plans for diesel submarines -- both sought by Taiwan.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since 1949, but Beijing continues to assert sovereignty over itand says it will use military action if the island seeks formal independence.

While the US does not technically have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is legally obliged to ensure that the island can defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act. Taiwan said the deal "gives us greater confidence in pushing for an amicable outcome in our relations with China, and will help promote peace in the Taiwan Strait".

China is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles aimed at the island.

The Asian superpower is thought to be concerned that Obama faces growing domestic pressure to take a tougher line towards Beijing and was angered by secretary of state Hillary Clinton's speech on internet freedom 10 days ago.

© Observer

Sunday Independent

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