A $6.4-billion (4.6-billion euros) arms deal between the United States and Taiwan has enraged China and threatens to endanger cooperation between Washington and Beijing on key international and regional issues.
The arms deal between the US and Taiwan has enraged China
The Pentagon's approval last week of the sale of Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, mine-hunting ships and other weaponry to Taiwan prompted China's state-run media to accuse the US of "arrogance" and "double standards."
The China Daily newspaper, run by the People's Daily, the Communist Party's propaganda mouthpiece, said that the US move "exposes the Americans' usage of double standards and hypocrisy on major issues related to China's core interests."
"It's time the US was made to feel the heat for the continuing arms sales to Taiwan," said the newspaper.
Beijing's response has been just as furious, with the Chinese government issuing threats that US companies involved in the deal, including aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing, would be hit with sanctions and that military and security contacts with Washington would be suspended.
Sino-US relations under pressure
China warned the United States that the arms deal could do "serious harm" to relations between the two powers.
The deal may derail Obama's hopes of Chinese cooperation
"In the short term this deal is going to have a larger impact on the Sino-US ties than on the Cross-Straits relations," Jonathan Holslag, an expert on China's foreign policy and regional security in Asia at the Brussels Institute for Contemporary China Studies (BICCS), told Deutsche Welle. "Beijing does not want to sever the current rapprochement with Taipei."
Dr. Gudrun Wacker from the Asia Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs believes that the arms deal with Taiwan is only one of the problems currently dogging Sino-US ties.
"US arms sales to Taiwan are not the only issue straining US-China relations," she told Deutsche Welle. "To mention only two points: the conflict with Google and over censorship of the Internet and a possible meeting of President Obama with the Dalai Lama in the near future. President Obama's offer of broad-based cooperation with China on bilateral and global issues has so far not brought about the response from China which the US has hoped for. With its growing economic and political weight, there might be more assertive behavior from the Chinese side."
Obama's hopes of Chinese help begin to fade
The fiery rhetoric from China over the weekend could dash Washington's hopes of securing Beijing's help in curbing the nuclear programs of Iran and China's ally North Korea while further destabilizing efforts to develop peaceful ties between Beijing and Taiwan.
While the United States has been pushing for stronger sanctions against Iran, China has repeatedly rejected this approach in favor of diplomacy as the only way to resolve the long-running dispute.
"China obviously blames Washington's ambivalence," Holslag added. "Washington reaches out one hand to beg for Beijing's support in Afghanistan, Korea and for chasing pirates in the Indian Ocean. But with the other, the US continues to provide military aid to Taiwan and key allies in the Pacific. As long as the American stick to their military presence in China's periphery, they should not expect China to behave as a partner."
The US wants China's help to rein in its ally, North Korea
"It is too early to tell whether this will have an effect of China's cooperation on the issues of North Korea and Iran," Gudrun Wacker said. "China maintains good relations with both countries - North Korea is a traditional ally and Iran is an important partner for energy supply. With respect to North Korea, China is interested in a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and in preventing the collapse of North Korea."
"On Iran, China has always argued in favor of a diplomatic solution and has been reluctant to support stronger sanctions against Tehran."
But what could be more damaging is the potential deterioration in China's will to find a peaceful solution to the Taiwan situation.
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