Obama Expected to Move Forward with Missile Sale to Taiwan Despite Chinese Outcry

Despite opposition from China, the Obama administration is expected to authorize the sale of two missile frigates to Taiwan this week, according to two Congressional aides who spoke with CNBC.

Taiwan said it would pay about $176 million for two frigates and it will consider seeking two more.

Beijing, which still considers Taiwan its renegade province, expressed outrage at the deal.

“We urge the U.S. government to stop selling arms to Taiwan to avoid hurting China-U.S. relations and disturbing peaceful development of cross-strait relations,” said a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy on Friday.

The congressional aide’s announcement comes a year after Congress passed the Naval Transfer Act authorizing the sale of four Perry-class frigates to Taiwan.

In recent months, Congress has pressed the administration to be more transparent on how it plans to move forward with the sale.

Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted unanimously to call on Obama to provide a timeline on how it will respond to the deal.

Washington is committed under the Taiwan Relations Act to support Taiwan’s defense capabilities.

In a joint letter by Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and Sen. Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the two Congressmen wrote to Obama calling for “more robust” military assistance to Taiwan.

“We are troubled that it has now been over four years – the longest period since the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 – since the administration has notified Congress of a new arms sale package,” the senators wrote in November.

Many analysts believe the sale has been stalled by the Obama administration in its efforts to maintain working relations with China, which remains a crucial economic partner.

Last Saturday, Beijing and Washington sealed a historic global-climate agreement that would initiate a major shift in the world’s fossil-fuel driven economy.

Although China expressed anger at last year’s authorization of the sale, the deal has not significantly harmed China’s relations with the U.S. or Taiwan.

Nonetheless, the deal comes during a time of increasing tension between China and the U.S. over the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of the strategic and economically-vital waterway through which billions of dollars in ship-borne goods pass through each year. The U.S. is also concerned about China’s rapid construction of artificial islands in the region, some of which have been equipped with air strips capable of accommodating most military aircraft.

The U.S. challenged China’s territorial ambitions by sending a guided-missile destroyer close to one of the artificial islands in October and B-52 bombers nearby last month.

Taiwan also claims parts of the South China Sea, and it’s currently leading a lawsuit against China over territorial claims. That case, the first of its kind between the two nations, is being overseen by an international court in the Netherlands.

Taiwan will undergo presidential elections next month and a party that usually sides with independence from China is expected to win.

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