The authorization, which Reuters on Monday reported was imminent,
came a year after Congress passed legislation approving the sale. It
is the first such major arms sale to Taiwan in more than four years.
The White House said there was no change in the longstanding U.S.
"one China" policy. Past U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan have attracted
strong condemnation in China, which considers Taiwan a renegade
The White House said the authorization followed previous sales
notifications by the administration totaling more than $12 billion
under the Taiwan Relations Act.
"Our longstanding policy on arms sales to Taiwan has been consistent
across six different U.S. administrations," a National Security
Council spokesman, Myles Caggins, said. "We remain committed to our
one-China policy," he added.
Although Washington does not recognize Taiwan as a separate state
from China, it is committed under the Taiwan Relations Act to
ensuring Taipei can maintain a credible defense.
The sales come at a period of heightened tension between the United
States and China over the South China Sea, where Washington has been
critical of China's building of man-made islands to assert expansive
China summoned the U.S. charge d'affaires in Beijing, Kaye Lee, to
protest and said it would impose sanctions on the companies
involved, state news agency Xinhua reported.
"Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. China strongly
opposes the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan," Xinhua quoted Vice Foreign
Minister Zheng Zeguang, who summoned Lee, as saying.
Zheng said the sales went against international law and basic norms
of international relations and "severely" harmed China's sovereignty
"To safeguard our national interests, China has decided to take
necessary measures, including imposing sanctions against the
companies involved in the arms sale," Zheng said.
The U.S. State Department said Raytheon <RTN.N> and Lockheed Martin
<LMT.N> were the main contractors in the sales.
It was not clear what impact sanctions might have on the companies,
although in 2013, Lockheed Martin signed a pact with the
Thailand-based Reignwood Group to build an offshore plant to supply
energy for a luxury resort on Hainan island in southern China.
"U.S. companies participating in arms sales to Taiwan gravely harm
China's sovereignty and security interests," Foreign Ministry
spokesman Hong Lei said.
"China's government and companies will not carry out cooperation and
commercial dealings with these types of companies."
However, previous Chinese sanction threats have not been followed up
China's Defense Ministry said the sale would also inevitably affect
military-to-military ties, but did not elaborate.
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Taiwan's defense ministry said the new weapons would be phased in
over a number of years and would enable Taiwan to maintain and
develop a credible defense.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the decision was
based solely on Taiwan's defense needs.
"The Chinese can react to this as they see fit," he said. "This is
nothing new. ... There's no need for it to have any derogatory
effect on our relationship with China."
Kirby said Washington wanted to work to establish a "better, more
transparent more effective relationship" with China in the region
and had been in contact with both Taiwan and China on this on
Wednesday. He declined to elaborate.
David McKeeby, another State Department spokesman, said the arms
package included two Perry-class guided-missile frigates; $57
million of Javelin anti-tank missiles made by Raytheon and Lockheed
Martin; $268 million of TOW 2B anti-tank missiles and $217 million
of Stinger surface-to-air missiles made by Raytheon, and $375
million of AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles.
The State Department said the frigates were being offered as surplus
items at a cost of $190 million. The package also includes $416
million of guns, upgrade kits, ammunition and support for Raytheon's
Close-in Weapons System.
Analysts and congressional sources believe the delay in the formal
approval of the sales was due to the Obama administration's desire
to maintain stable working relations with China, an increasingly
powerful strategic rival but also a vital economic partner as the
world's second-largest economy.
U.S. Republican lawmakers said on Wednesday they were pleased the
administration had authorized the sale but called for a more regular
process for such transactions.
John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said
this would "avoid extended periods in which fear of upsetting the
U.S.-China relationship may harm Taiwan’s defense capabilities."
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and David Brunnstrom; Addtional
reporting by Matt Spetalnick, and J.R. Wu in Taipei and Michael
Martina in Beijing; Editing by Leslie Adler and Clarence Fernandez)
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