Giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense and Raytheon are targeted by the Chinese government. Washington approved two sales worth US$ 4.2 billion. The Chinese move is likely to have little practical effect. Taiwan is forced to buy due to threats from China.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – China will impose sanctions on US companies that sell weapons to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian announced yesterday.
The main companies targeted are giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense and Raytheon, but no details were provided as to the nature of the sanctions.
Beijing’s response follows the decision by the US State Department on 21 October to authorise the sale of US$ 1.8 billion in weapons to Taipei, including cruise missiles, sensors, artillery pieces and mobile missile launchers.
Whilst China’s sanctions were being announced, the US State department announced another sale to Taiwan: 400 Harpoon Block II anti-ship cruise missiles, along with 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense System Launcher Transporter Units, radars and technical support, in a deal worth up to .4 billion.
Overall, the Trump administration is offering Taiwan nine weapons systems, further exacerbating already high tensions in the complicated relationship between Washington and Beijing.
In the past, China sanctioned the US arms industry, albeit with minimal effects. Apart from the propaganda value among China’s more nationalist fringes, the latest restrictions are not likely to have any major impact.
On paper, Boeing is the company that risks the most among those on China’s sanctions list. The mainland is one of its main markets for commercial aircraft, but Zhao specified that only the military branch of the US company (which makes the Harpoons) will be sanctioned.
Lockheed Martin sells radars and other civil aviation equipment to China, but reacting to Beijing's move, the company's top management downplayed the issue, noting that its presence in China is minimal.
The same goes for Raytheon, which makes components for the civilian aerospace industry.
The Taiwanese government thanked the US for approving the second sale in a week, in line with the Taiwan Relations Act, which commits Washington to support the island’s defence.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the US agency that oversees foreign weapons sales, the new weapons will allow Taiwan to maintain a credible defensive capability.
Taiwanese authorities have condemned Beijing's decision to impose sanctions on the United States. Yesterday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry declared that the purchase of weapons from the US was necessary due to China's "military threats".
In recent years, Chinese leaders have increased their pressure on Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, whom they accuse of pursuing a pro-independence agenda.
In October alone, Beijing’s military planes violated the island’s aerial identification zone on 20 days. These raids come on top of those carried out by the naval forces of the People’s Liberation Army.
Communist China considers Taiwan a rebel province, and has never ruled out taking it by force.
Taiwan has been de facto independent since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist forces found refuge on the island after losing the civil war on the mainland against the Communists. Since then, Taiwan has claimed to be the heir to the Republic of China founded in 1912.