One day after the US announced it would sell $1.42 billion in weapons to China's offshore nemesis Taiwan, Beijing lashed out at the United States, saying it was "outraged" and demanded the US revoke immediately its "wrong decision", saying it contradicted a "consensus" President Xi Jinping reached with his counterpart, Donald Trump, in talks in April in Florida.
The proposed U.S. package for Taiwan includes technical support for early warning radar, high speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and missile components.
The sales would send a very wrong message to "Taiwan independence" forces, China's embassy in Washington said in a statement. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said on Thursday the administration had told Congress of seven proposed sales to Taiwan, the first under the Trump administration. "The Chinese government and Chinese people have every right to be outraged," the embassy said.
Besides token bluster, however, this time China also warned that Trump's action was counter to the agreement reached with Xi in Palm Beach, suggesting retaliation will likely be imminent. "The wrong move of the U.S. side runs counter to the consensus reached by the two presidents in and the positive development momentum of the China-U.S. relationship," the embassy said.
This was the second major diplomatic escalation between the US and China in just the past 24 hours, with the US announcing late yesterday the first sanction imposed on Chinese entities for ties with North Korea, a move which likewise was slammed by the Chinese press.
As a reminder, one of Trump's initial diplomatic snafus was to implicitly recognize Taiwan when he spoke over the phone with its president Tsai Ing-wen shortly after the election, in the process infuriating Beijing. China regards Taiwan as a wayward province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. China's Nationalists fled to the island after losing the civil war with China's Communists in 1949. The United States is the sole arms supplier to Taiwan.
In the meantime, China's Defense Ministry said Taiwan was the "most important, most sensitive core issue in Sino-U.S. ties", warning the United States to end such sales to avoid further damaging peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Trump's relationship with China has been quite complex: Trump was initially critical of China during his successful 2016 presidential campaign but his meeting at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida with Xi raised hopes for warmer relations. Trump later played up his personal relationship with Xi, calling him a "good man", and stressed the need for China's help in reining in a defiant North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles.
And now, according to the latest report, Trump is allegedly preparing to go back to square 1 and unleash trade war on China and others.
As Reuters notes, China's anger over the U.S. plan to supply Taiwan with weapons risks undermining Trump's attempts to press China to help on North Korea. Beijing's relationship with Taiwan has been frosty since President Tsai Ing-wen took power in Taipei last year. Tsai leads an independence-leaning party that refuses to recognized Beijing's "one China" policy.
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Asked about the sales at an event on Thursday evening in Washington, Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai said the United States was "incorrigible" when it came to Taiwan, the official Chinese Communist Party People's Daily newspaper reported on its website.
"But we should still continue to instruct (them) and continue advancing on the right track of China-U.S. relations because this is what truly fits for both countries' long term interests," the paper quoted Cui as saying. The sales, which require congressional approval, would be the first since a $1.83 billion sale that former President Barack Obama announced in December 2015, also to China's dismay. The previous package included two navy frigates in addition to anti-tank missiles and amphibious attack vehicles.
Trump is expected to meet and perhaps chat with Xi Jinping during next week's G-20 meeting. Since Putin will also be present, and will meet with the US president, there will be plenty of drama.