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China Cancels, Postpones Military Contacts with US Over Taiwan Arms Sale Approval

By Al Pessin


06 October 2008

The Pentagon says China has canceled and postponed some military exchanges to protest the approval of new weapons sales to Taiwan. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

Major Stuart Upton says China has postponed or canceled senior level visits and exchanges on cooperation in disaster relief between now and the end of November.

"The cancellation or the postponement of these meetings and these relations were a result of the Taiwan arms sales," he said. "And the fact is there has been no change to our policy over time that would force them or have them reacting to our arms sales to Taiwan."

Major Upton could not immediately provide details of the canceled or postponed exchanges, but accused China of "continued politicization" of the bilateral military relationship.

China's move comes after it objected to the Pentagon's approval of arms sales to Taiwan announced on Friday, that would allow the island to buy several types of missiles, 30 Apache attack helicopters, upgraded equipment for some of its military aircraft and a variety of other items.

The defense department officially notified the congress of the approval, and members have 30 days to object. If there is no objection, Taiwan's government would still have to allocate the money to pay for any of the items. Some U.S. officials have complained in recent years that the island's government has been reluctant to approve money to buy modern weapons, and relies too much on the U.S. military for its defense.

The arms package includes Patriot missiles for air defense, and Harpoon missiles, which are launched from submarines.

Under U.S.-China agreements, the United States recognizes the government in Beijing, but maintains relations with Taiwan - including the sale of weapons to maintain its defense. The Pentagon says this approval is in keeping with those agreements and U.S. law, although a spokesman acknowledged that weapons systems designed for defense can sometimes be used for offensive missions.

China accused the United States of violating the agreements and of hurting China's interests and U.S.-China relations. Taiwan welcomed the approvals.

Responding to China's actions Monday, Pentagon spokesman Major Upton blamed Beijing for creating concerns that has lead others to want to improve their defenses.

"Well, the impact is we're having a missed opportunity between our two militaries to continue to enhance our dialogue and understanding of each other so that we're not trying to guess at what China is doing, what they're up to," he said.

Major Upton says "uncertainty over the motivations and direction of China's military expansion leads others to hedge," which he says "could lead to a security environment less favorable to China's interests" and regional security. He called for "greater transparency and openness" about China's modernization program and its "strategic intentions".

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