China unveils anti-missile test after Taiwan sale

China successfully tested emerging military technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air, the government said, while state media warned ties with Washington would be hurt by United States missile sales to Taiwan.

The brief report on the “ground-based mid-course missile interception technology” from the state-run Xinhua news agency gave few details, and did not specify whether any missile had been destroyed in the test, staged on Chinese soil.

“The test has achieved the expected objective,” said the report, without describing that objective.

“The test is defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country,” it quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying.

The announcement came soon after the United States last week cleared a sale of advanced Patriot air defence missiles to Taiwan despite opposition from rival Beijing.

China’s ire over US arms sales to Taiwan shows no signs of escalating into outright military confrontation, but could cast a chill on relations with Washington at a time when both governments are also wary about trade disputes and economic strains.

China claims Taiwan is an illegitimate breakaway from mainland rule and opposes US arms sales to the island as an intrusion into a domestic dispute.

Missiles pointed at Taiwan
The Patriot “PAC-3” missiles can destroy missiles in mid-air, and could be used against the thousand or more offensive missiles that Taiwan says China has along its coast facing the island.

A commentary from the Xinhua agency on Monday warned of broader fallout from the Patriot missile deal.

“Each time the United States has sold weapons to Taiwan, there has been huge damage to China-US relations,” said the commentary, issued separately from the report on the anti-missile test. “This US arms sale to Taiwan will be no exception.”

The commentary accused the Obama administration of betraying a commitment to respect each country’s “core interests”.

“Immediately halt weapons sales to Taiwan to avoid damaging cooperation between China and the United States in important areas,” it said. It did not specify those areas.

China curtailed military-to-military contacts with the United States after then president George Bush notified Congress in October 2008 of plans to sell Taiwan a long-delayed arms package valued at up to $6,4-billion.

Senior Chinese People’s Liberation Army officials have also urged Beijing to punish Washington and US firms for arms deals with the disputed island.

“We have the power and ability to adopt counter-measures[(against US arms sales to Taiwan],” Jin Yinan, a PLA major-general and professor at China’s National Defence University wrote in a Chinese newspaper, the Study Times, earlier this month. “We must use counter-measures to make the other side pay a corresponding price and suffer corresponding punishment.”

PLA officials and reports in recent years have said developing anti-missile technology is one focus of defence spending, which has grown by double-digits over many years.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Communist forces won the Chinese civil war and fleeing Nationalists gained control of the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. But Washington remains Taiwan’s biggest military backer and says it is obliged to help the island defend itself. – Reuters

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