TAIPEI: Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday the island will continue to acquire arms from the United States, dismissing reports that the US and China could discuss ending such sales.
Ma spoke after local and Chinese media Thursday quoted a Chinese defence official who said Washington had reacted positively when China’s defence minister Chang Wanquan proposed setting up a joint working group to discuss arms sales to Taipei.
Chang made the proposal during a visit to the US that started last week, according to Guan Youfei, who accompanied him on the trip.
Guan reportedly also said that, during a meeting with his US counterpart Chuck Hagel, Chang offered to adjust Chinese military deployment in exchange for the US ending its weapons sales to Taiwan.
Guan’s remarks raised concerns in Taiwan, where the US is the leading arms supplier to the island.
President Barack Obama’s administration has approved more than $12bn in sales and equipment upgrades, but has held off on Taiwan’s requests to buy new F-16 fighter jets, a step against which China has repeatedly warned.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have eased markedly since Ma came to power on a Beijing-friendly platform in 2008. He was re-elected in January 2012.
But Ma has stressed that Taiwan needs to maintain sufficient self-defence, as China still regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.