In a move sure to aggravate China, the Obama administration on Friday announced plans for more than $6 billion in arms sales to Taiwan, the self-governing island the Chinese claim as their own, AP reported.
The sale would include Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot missiles, mine-hunting ships and information technology. Lawmakers have 30 days to comment before the plan proceeds; senior lawmakers have traditionally supported arms sales to Taiwan.
Taiwan is the most sensitive matter in already-tense relations between the U.S. and China, two powers increasingly linked by security and economic issues. The sale could spark a temporary break in U.S.-China military ties.
The United States, which only told China of the sale hours before the announcement, acknowledged Friday that Beijing may retaliate by cutting off military talks with Washington, which happened after a multibillion dollar U.S. sale to Taiwan in 2008.
Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said Beijing will lodge a formal protest against the U.S. decision. Asked if China would cut off military ties, he said, "Let's wait and see."
President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Jim Jones, said Friday that Washington and Beijing both do things "periodically that may not make everybody completely happy."
But Jones told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank the U.S. is "bent toward a new relationship with China as a rising power in the world."
China vehemently opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. It has threatened to invade Taiwan should the island ever formalize its de facto independence.
The United States is Taiwan's most important ally and largest arms supplier.
The package, posted on a Pentagon Web site, dodges one thorny issue: The F-16 fighter jets that Taiwan covets are not included.
The sale satisfies parts of an $11 billion arms package originally pledged to Taiwan by former President George W. Bush in 2001, which has been provided in stages because of political and budgetary considerations in Taiwan and the United States.
The arms sale will test the Obama administration's China policy, which U.S. officials say is meant to improve trust between the countries, so that the inevitable disagreements over Taiwan or Tibet don't reverse efforts to cooperate on nuclear standoffs in Iran and North Korea and other issues.
China aims more than 1,000 ballistic missiles at Taiwan; the U.S. government is bound by law to ensure the island is able to respond to Chinese threats.
The package includes 114 Patriot missiles designed to shoot down other missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, and two mine-hunting ships.