WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced plans Friday to sell $6.4 billion in weapons to Taiwan, including helicopters and missile defense systems, a move that's certain to anger China, which considers the island nation a renegade province.
At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly stepped up pressure on China to reconsider its opposition to new sanctions on Iran, suggesting that a nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East and, with it, China's energy supplies.
Taken together, the developments appeared to portend rough times ahead for ties between the world's two largest economies, already strained this month over a threat by Internet giant Google to pull out of the Chinese market.
The proposed weapons sale to Taiwan, President Obama's first, includes 114 PAC-3 missile defense rockets, 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, a dozen Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two mine-hunting ships, and communications and surveillance equipment.
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China is certain to protest the sale loudly, although it remains to be seen whether it will move beyond rhetoric to hardening its position on Iran, climate change, trade, purchases of U.S. Treasury securities or other issues. The last time the United States sold arms to Taiwan, in 2008, China temporarily suspended Sino-U.S. military-to-military contacts.
Senior U.S. officials said the sales were made necessary by a 1979 law that requires Washington to provide defensive weapons to Taiwan, and by China's continued buildup of missiles and other weaponry on its side of the Taiwan Strait.
"It does directly address the (Chinese moves) that we see as making Taiwan more vulnerable," a senior administration official said.
After news of the impending sale leaked earlier this week, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated Beijing's opposition.