China objected Friday to a U.S. plan to supply radar equipment to Taiwan's air force, even though the sale was far short of the F-16 fighter jets the island's president urged Washington to provide last week.
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said earlier this week that the U.S. sale includes "defense services, technical data, and defense articles" for Taiwan's air defense system, and radar equipment for the island's Indigenous Defense Fighter jets.
Crowley did not put a monetary figure on the deal or identify the American companies involved. The U.S. is obligated by its own laws to provide Taiwan defensive weapons.
Beijing opposes any military sales to Taiwan as interference in its internal affairs, and the issue has often strained U.S.-China relations.
"China resolutely opposes the United States selling weapons and relevant technical assistance to Taiwan," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement.
"We urge the United States to ... put an end to arms sales to Taiwan and military ties with Taiwan to avoid causing new harm to Sino-U.S. relations."
Taiwan's Defense Ministry has not commented on the planned sale, but the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, a private advocacy group based in suburban Washington, called it "a small move."
For years the island has been pressing the U.S. to sell it 66 F-16 C/D fighter jets to help counteract a long-standing Chinese military buildup, much of which has been aimed at providing Beijing the wherewithal to invade across the 100-mile- (160-kilometer-) wide Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949 and the mainland still claims the island as part of its territory. It has threatened to attack if democratic Taiwan moves to make its de facto independence permanent.
Earlier this year it suspended defense exchanges with Washington after the U.S. announced it would make available to Taiwan a $6.4 billion weapons package.
Some Taiwanese defense officials fear that the threat of additional Chinese pressure has already convinced Washington to take the F-16 C/D sale off the table.
However, they continue to hope that the Obama administration might agree to a substantial upgrade of the F-16 A/B fighters currently in the island's inventory as a kind of consolation prize.
Last week after the release of a Pentagon report criticizing the secrecy surrounding China's military expansion, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou urged Washington to sell the advanced version of the F16 fighter. Beijing said the report was "not beneficial."
In contrast to F-16s, the Indigenous Defense Fighter at the center of the new radar deal is widely regarded as a relatively unsophisticated aircraft, incapable of holding its own against the fourth generation fighters now in the possession of the Chinese air force.