China on Monday criticised a vote by the US House of Representatives last week requiring the United States to sell 66 new fighter jets to Taiwan, describing the measure as interference by Washington.
The Republican-controlled lower house of Congress pushed through the vote on Friday, forcing Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration to authorise the sale of the F-16 jets, with lawmakers saying the deal would close a growing military gap with China.
Reacting to the vote, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the decision “constitutes a grave interference in China’s internal affairs”.
Although China and Taiwan have been separated since the end of a civil war in 1949, Beijing still considers the island part of its territory and has threatened to use force to bring about reunification.
“We have noticed that the China related amendment in this bill speculates on China’s military development and calls for arms sales to Taiwan. We are firmly opposed to that,” Hong said during a foreign ministry briefing.
“Advocating arms sales to Taiwan seriously contravenes the one China policy,” under which Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory.
The scope of the US vote is in addition to plans already under way to upgrade existing Taiwanese warplanes. The measure still needs Senate approval.
The measure’s main sponsor, Republican Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas, said that Taiwan needed more than an upgrade of its aging fleet in light of the rapid growth in military spending by Beijing.
The Obama administration, whose Democratic Party controls the Senate, authorised a $5.85 billion upgrade of Taiwan’s existing jets in September but held off on the sale of brand-new jets.
The move was widely seen as a way to limit criticism from China at a time when the United States seeks Beijing’s cooperation on a range of issues from trade disputes to standoffs with North Korea and Iran.
China publicly denounced the upgrade plan but US officials say they have seen little concrete retaliation, such as a freeze on military relations, of the kind Beijing carried out after previous arms sales to Taiwan.