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US freezes arms sale to Taiwan
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The US has frozen its arms sale to Taiwan in deference to China's demand and the government is watching Washington's moves closely.

Responding to the US move, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao Thursday urged Washington to honor its commitments in the three Sino-US communiqus, especially the August 17 Communiqu.

The August 17 Communiqu, signed in 1982, says the US will not follow a long-term policy of selling arms to Taiwan, instead it will gradually reduce it.

Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of US Pacific Command, said on Wednesday that Washington had frozen arms sales to Taiwan, given the improving relations across the Taiwan Straits.

The recent warming of relations across the Straits have yielded many positive results: chartered direct flights between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan over the weekends for the first time, the first formal talks in a decade and an increase in tourism and trade relations.

These developments, too, helped change the White House's attitude, Keating said at a forum of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.

Besides, "the Chinese have made it clear to me their concern over any arms sales to Taiwan".

"There is no pressing, compelling need for, at this moment, arms sales to Taiwan" after studying military postures of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, Keating said.

Last month senior US officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, reportedly held up a $11-billion arms package and the delivery of dozens of F-16 jets to Taiwan, possibly till President George W. Bush leaves office.

The last time the Bush administration notified the US Congress of a potential arms sale to Taiwan was on November 9, 2007.

Keating has agreed with visiting Lieutenant General Zhang Qinsheng, commander of Guangzhou Military Command, to hold their first ever joint humanitarian disaster relief drill either at the end of 2009 or in early 2010.

Tao Wenzhao, a senior researcher on US studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "Washington will not want to continue selling arms to Taiwan at the cost of its cooperation with China on global issues ranging from trade to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, especially when cross-Straits ties are improving."

(China Daily July 18, 2008)

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