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February 3, 2010

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US firms warned on Taiwan arms sale

A CHINESE Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday urged United States companies to stop promoting or being involved in arms sales to Taiwan, to avoid tension between the two countries.

"Some US companies, which ignore the stern objections of the Chinese government and decide to sell weapons to Taiwan regardless, will face sanctions," spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular briefing in Beijing.

China has decided to halt bilateral military programs and security talks after the Obama administration gave the green light to a new package of arms sales to Taiwan.

"The US move posed grave danger to China's core interests and hurt bilateral ties seriously, which will inevitably affect bilateral cooperation on some major regional and international issues," Ma said.

He did not specify which issues would be affected nor what kind of sanctions China would impose.

The Obama administration notified Congress last Friday the US$6.4 billion package, in which Patriot missiles from the Lockheed Martin Corporation and 60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation accounted for some US$6 billion.

US companies involved in the arms sale to Taiwan have remained silent or given evasive comments on China's sanction warning, but military and trade experts said yesterday that the government holds many options to penalize the arms-selling companies.

Beijing has given an unprecedented sanctions warning to companies involved in the arms deal. The potential targets of sanctions include US defense contractors Boeing, Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Wang Yukui, vice president of communications of Boeing China Co, Ltd refused to respond to a flood of public criticism of the company on China's Internet forums.

Instead, he said on Monday that the arms sale plan was made by the US government, which informed his company after its announcement.

Wang said China had been a very important market for Boeing and its local business, mainly civilian aviation, had been doing quite well.

"If the US side does not change the arms sale decision, China will turn the sanctions warning into action," predicted Tan Kaijia, an arms expert with the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army.

The sanctions would be a drastic countermeasure, which would compel US authorities to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the arms sale, Tan said.


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