Why Trump's $1.42bn Taiwan arms sale could backfire with China

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The U.S. State Department's approval of the sale — the first since December 2015— follows a tense year between China and Taiwan.

On Thursday, the Trump administration notified Congress of its plans to go ahead with the controversial arms package, the first such sale under President Trump.

While a successful arms sale might draw a stern rebuke from Beijing, experts such as Professor Shen Dingli of Fudan University's Institute of International Studies said an agreement that leads to American ships docking in Taiwan ports will likely lead to a collapse of US-China ties.

The arms deal includes advanced missiles and torpedoes, in addition to technical support for an early warning radar system. The sales represent upgrades, including equipment needed to convert current defensive systems from analog to digital, the official said.

In a series of parallel, and provocative, moves, a Republican-controlled Senate committee also provisionally approved visits to Taiwan by the Japan-based US Seventh Fleet for the first time since 1979, when Washington recognised the People's Republic of China and adopted a "one China" policy.

The last USA arms sales to Taiwan was in 2015 and was worth $1.8 billion, despite strong opposition from China. It seriously violates the principles of the three Joint Communiqués between China and the US, in particular, the August 17, 1982 US-China Communiqué on Arms Sales to Taiwan, grossly interferes on China's domestic affairs, jeopardizes China's sovereign and security interests, and undermines China's efforts to realize national unification, according to the statement.

This photo, taken on April 07, 2017 shows US President Donald Trump (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands during a dinner at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a press briefing that Beijing has lodged a formal protest with Washington and urged the US government to "uphold its solemn commitment to the One-China principle".

The defense ministry said the sales will boost the island's air and sea combat capabilities.

"(The arms sale) increases Taiwan's confidence and ability to maintain the status quo of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait", Tsai's office tweeted. "The Chinese government and Chinese people have every right to be outraged", it adds. -China diplomatic relations, spokesman Lu Kang told a press briefing in Beijing.

It was the first time a US president or president-elect has had contact with a Taiwanese leader since before the USA cut off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979.

The sale was broadly welcomed on Taiwan as a show of US support, despite concerns about the strain on finances and Beijing's angry response.

To that end, the administration also announced Thursday that it was imposing new sanctions on a Chinese bank that has business dealings with North Korea. However, the Trump administration has since demanded that Beijing put more pressure on North Korea to rein in its nuclear and missile programs. "There's no change, I should point out, to our "one-China policy".

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