The United States said Tuesday that its arms sale to Taiwan is aimed at promoting “peace and stability” in the Asia Pacific region and Washington is not changing its "One China" policy.
China has demanded the U.S. to cancel the sale after the State Department approved a request by Taiwan to purchase an estimated $2.2 billion worth of military equipment.
The deal, announced Monday by the Defense Department's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, includes 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and over 1,500 anti-tank missiles. The agency said the package would not alter the basic military balance in the region.
“Our interest in Taiwan, especially as it relates to these military sales, is to promote peace and stability across the [Taiwan] Strait, across the region," said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus during a briefing.
Ortagus added, "There is no change, of course, in our long-standing One China policy,” which is based on three U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.
A State Department official told VOA the approved sale is consistent with U.S. law and policy.
"This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient's continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability," the official said.
In Taipei, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen expressed appreciation for the deal, saying the defensive weapons provided by the U.S. will boost Taiwan's self-defense capabilities and deter potential military threats.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Tsai said Taiwan will continue to invest in national defense, defend democracy while promoting regional peace and stability.
Pleased that the #US government has approved another arms sale package, boosting #Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities. We’ll continue to speed up investment in national defense, & partner with like-minded countries to defend democracy while promoting regional peace and stability. pic.twitter.com/dw4Rw58hYb— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) July 9, 2019
The potential deal has angered China, Taiwan's bitter cross-Strait rival. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called on the U.S. Tuesday to "immediately cancel" the deal, saying it "seriously violates the one-China principle ...grossly interferes in China's internal affairs and undermines China's sovereignty and security interests."
Geng also said China has already filed formal complaints with the U.S. through diplomatic channels.
The two sides split after the 1949 civil war when Chaing Kai-shek's Nationalist forces were driven off the mainland by Mao Zedong's Communists and sought refuge on Taiwan. But Beijing considers the self-ruled island part of its territory and has vowed to take control of it, by force if necessary.
The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, but U.S. presidents are bound by law to supply it with arms and come to its defense.
The agreement also comes amid the Trump administration's ongoing trade dispute with Beijing, with the two nations exchanging back-and-forth tariffs on each other's goods since last year.
The U.S. announcement of the possible military sales to Taiwan was welcomed by the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, an organization dedicated to developing the trade and business relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan.
Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers said, "These tanks and missiles will provide the Taiwan army with a modern capability to deter and complicate the operational planning of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces that coerce and threaten Taiwan."
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have been strained since President Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016 and refused to accept the concept of China and Taiwan joined together as "one China."
Beijing has since mounted an aggressive posture toward Taipei, such as carrying out military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, blocking Taipei's participation in international organizations, and persuading several nations to switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China.