NEW YORK/BEIJING – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday rejected a Chinese threat to impose sanctions on U.S. firms involved in sales of weapons to Taiwan.
The U.S. State Department recently approved a planned sale of tanks and missiles to Taiwan for an estimated cost of $2.22 billion, triggering a strong protest by China and potentially giving a fresh twist to the prolonged trade battle between the world’s two largest economies.
“I think it is very legitimate that we look for any opportunity to strengthen our defense capability and we appreciate the U.S. government’s assistance in this so far,” Tsai told reporters in New York, where she arrived the previous day en route to diplomatic allies in the Caribbean.
China had also called for the United States to reject the transit stop, during which Tsai met with U.S. business leaders and lawmakers.
“No sanctions will weaken the admiration and good feeling the United States has for Taiwan,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, after meeting with Tsai.
China’s Foreign Ministry pledged Friday to impose sanctions on American firms to counter the recent weapons deal.
“We will impose sanctions on U.S. companies that are related to weapon sales in order to safeguard national interests,” the ministry said in a statement.
On Thursday, Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the U.S. move “will threaten development of militaries of both counties and damage peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” urging Washington to withdraw its plan.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has forged close relations with self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province awaiting reunification.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since they split amid a civil war in 1949. Beijing has since then endeavored to undermine Taipei’s quest for international recognition.
China has stepped up such efforts, particularly since Tsai, who belongs to the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, came to power in Taiwan in May 2016.