China is threatening sanctions on U.S. firms selling arms to Taiwan, after the U.S. government said it supported an $8 billion sale of fighter jets and other equipment to the island.
Geng Shuang, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said China would impose sanctions if the arms sales go forward, according to Chinese state media. Geng also urged the U.S. to end military contact with Taiwan.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency released a statement Tuesday that the U.S. State Department had approved a possible sale of 66 F-16 fighter jets and related equipment.
Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst with Rand Corp., said, "I think the threat of sanctions right now is quite vague. If you recall last month after the U.S. sold $2 billion worth of Abrams tanks to Taiwan, China similarly threatened sanctions, but nothing has really transpired thus far."
Grossman continued, "The firms involved in building the F-16s, they don't do a whole lot of business in China, and so how that is going to impact those companies' bottom lines is to be determined."
Taiwan is self-governing, and has had de facto independence from China since 1949. China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory which should eventually be reunited with the mainland. When the U.S. switched its official diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, it vowed to defend Taiwan if China attempted to take the island by force.
China's military capabilities dwarf Taiwan's, and it says American arms sales to the island violate China's sovereignty. News of the proposed arms sale comes amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China over trade and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
This sale of fighter jets is the fourth package of arms sales to Taiwan from the Trump administration.