China Pledges ‘Legitimate and Necessary Countermeasures’ to Massive US Weapons Sale to Taiwan
A day after the Biden administration announced approval of a large new weapons sale to Taiwan, the Chinese government condemned the move and promised “countermeasures” in response to it.
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. The United States interferes in China's internal affairs and undermines China's sovereignty and security interests by selling arms to the Taiwan region,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Thursday statement.
“It runs counter to international law and basic principles in international relations, and violates the one-China principle and provisions of the three China-US joint communiques, especially the August 17 Communique,” the ministry said, adding that “it sends wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces, and severely jeopardizes China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
The ministry added that “China will resolutely take legitimate and necessary countermeasures in light of the development of the situation.”
China regards Taiwan as a province in rebellion, and in the three joint communiques issued by the US and China between 1972 and 1982 as part of their normalization of ties, the US acceded to Beijing’s position. The government in Taipei, formally called the Republic of China, is all that remains of the republican government after the 1949 communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. Both sides claim to be the sole legitimate representative of the Chinese people.
On Wednesday, the US Defense Logistics Agency announced the State Department had approved the potential sale of $750 million in weapons systems to Taiwan, including forty M109A6 Paladin self-propelled artillery systems. Superficially similar to a tank, the Paladins have massive 155-millimeter cannons that can lob a shell up to 40 miles away.
The deal will still have to be approved by Congress, which typically does so once such deals are approved by the State Department. The deal will be the first under the Biden administration.
In April, Sputnik reported on rumors a Paladin sale was in the works, as Taipei also pressured Washington to sell them long-range air-launched cruise missiles. During the prior administration of Donald Trump, the US sold an unprecedented number of weapons to Taiwan, including advanced F-16V “Viper” fighter jets, MQ-9 Reaper drones, missiles, torpedoes, and other equipment totaling billions of dollars.
As the Chinese Foreign Ministry noted, the US pledged in the third joint communique, also called the August 17 ,1982, communique, “that it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan” and that it “intends to reduce gradually its sales of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution.”
Since the Taiwan Strait at its narrowest is 81 miles across, the Paladins could only be used for defensive purposes, shelling Chinese forces during or after an amphibious assault on the island.
In a Thursday editorial, the Global Times, an outlet owned by the Communist Party of China’s paper People’s Daily, dismissed the idea that the Paladins could be remotely useful in this role as “such a naïve idea.”
“If an all-out war breaks out across the Taiwan Straits, the PLA will definitely carry out a saturation attack on Taiwan's military targets,” the Global Times wrote. “There's only limited land facing the Chinese mainland on which Taiwan's self-propelled howitzers can move around. The PLA is clearly aware of the location of every house or tree there. Against this backdrop, can self-propelled howitzers be maneuvered under the PLA's nose? … The armed forces in Taiwan should be clear that once a war breaks out, the only way to survive is to surrender, and all resistance is pointless.”
Last week, the American destroyer USS Benfold transited the Taiwan Strait, the seventh time this year a US warship has done so. The deliberately provocative action, intended to demonstrate US contempt for China’s claims to control the waterway, drew instant condemnation from Beijing.
“The frequent implementation of similar provocative acts by the United States fully demonstrates that the United States is the biggest destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the biggest maker of security risks across the Taiwan Strait,” said Army Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command.
Beijing has said such actions encourage the pro-separatist government in Taiwan, warning that if Taipei issues a formal declaration of independence, there will be war. The PLA Navy has been rapidly expanding its amphibious forces in recent years, including building three new Hainan-class amphibious assault ships. However, the US has also been more seriously considering how to defend Taiwan, including holding secretive war games with Tokyo concerning Taiwan operations.
At the beginning of his Southeast Asia tour last week, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a speech in Singapore that China was engaged in “destabilising military activity and other forms of coercion against the people of Taiwan.” He pledged that “we will not flinch when our interests are threatened, yet we do not seek confrontation.”