News of the planned sale emerged early Friday after the State Department informed Congress Thursday evening of the administration's intent to sell 66 of the Fighting Falcon jets to Taiwan. Leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees – which would need ultimately to approve the sale – issued statements of support shortly after.
China denounced the planned sale, one of the biggest yet by the United States to Taiwan. It warned of unspecified “countermeasures.”
The chairman and ranking member of the House committee called the sale "a strong message about the US commitment to security and democracy in the Indo-Pacific" against China.
Beijing, however, blasted the move, saying through its state news service it opposes the sale and has lodged complaints to its American counterparts.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged the US to stop arms sales to and military contact with Taiwan, otherwise, the Chinese side would “certainly take countermeasures,” Xinhua said.
The White House has been largely silent about the sale. It comes at a particularly consequential time in US-Chinese relations as a trade war looms with both sides threatening further economic punishments against the other.
Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself. It is the main arms supplier to Taiwan and there is broad support for this in Congress.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control and has repeatedly denounced US arms sales to the island.
Friday’s New York Times quoted unnamed US officials as saying that the Trump administration, which is engaged in a major trade war with China, was moving forward with the sale and said the State Department gave informal notification of the plan to the House and Senate foreign affairs committees on Thursday.
The paper said once those committees gave the go ahead, which would probably come within days or weeks, there would follow a formal notification to Congress, which would trigger a 30-day period for objections, Reuters reported.
The State Department and White House declined to comment.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman also said Beijing had made solemn representations to the United States over the planned sale.
Xinhua quoted Hua as saying that it was a serious violation of the “one-China principle,” under which Washington recognizes Beijing and not Taipei, and undermined China’s sovereignty and security interests.
After the United States approved sales of tanks and Raytheon Co.’s antiaircraft Stinger missiles to Taiwan in July, China said it was “ready to go to war” if people “try to split Taiwan from the country.”
Beijing said it would impose sanctions on US companies involved in any deals.
On Thursday, Taiwan unveiled its largest defense spending increase in more than a decade, to T$411.3 billion ($13.11 billion.)