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U.S. Approves Sale of Warships to Taiwan
From the Wall Street Journal of Fri, 19 Dec 2014 06:50:57 EST
A Taiwanese Perry class frigate participates in military exercises off the east coast of Hualien, central Taiwan, Sept. 17, 2014.
A Taiwanese Perry class frigate participates in military exercises off the east coast of Hualien, central Taiwan, Sept. 17, 2014. Associated Press

TAIPEI—The U.S. approved the sale to Taiwan of four used warships, drawing a swift rebuke from China, which called the move damaging to Chinese security interests.

A White House statement said President Barack Obama signed into law on Thursday the legislation authorizing the sale of the Oliver Hazard Perry class guided-missile frigates.

The authorization was long expected, with the bill having slowly progressed through Congress this year, and Taipei has already said tight defense budgets mean it will only buy two of the vessels, instead of all four. The ships won’t alter the military balance, which is tilted in Beijing’s favor, according to Taiwan lawmakers and military experts.

Still, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday it lodged protests over the sale with U.S. officials in Beijing and in Washington. Authorization of the sale “blatantly interferes in China’s domestic affairs and undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests,” ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a daily media briefing in Beijing.

China routinely objects to arms sales to Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory but hasn’t controlled since a split in a civil war more than six decades ago. Tensions have eased since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008 and made building closer economic ties with China a priority.

Long-standing U.S. ties to Taiwan and the periodic arms sales continue to irritate Beijing, which sees them as undermining its goal of reunification with the island.

In response to the U.S. move, Mr. Qin said, “We reserve the right to take further action.”

Though Mr. Qin didn’t elaborate, Beijing has registered its displeasure over past arms sales by canceling or delaying high-level contacts, particularly between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. The two militaries, especially the navies, have over the past year tried to move beyond deep-seated suspicions to improve communications.

Taipei, meanwhile, has been criticized by some U.S. military experts for not spending enough to maintain a strong defense. In April, when the U.S. House approved the arm sales bill, Taiwan Defense Minister Yen Ming cited budgetary constraints as the reason that Taipei decided to buy only two of the Perry class frigates.

—Charles Hutzler contributed to this article.

Write to Aries Poon at aries.poon@wsj.com



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