In a move that could complicate Sino-U.S. relations, the Department of Defense notified Congress on August 27 of a proposed $350 million package of arms sales to Taiwan, including 728 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, 131 MK-46 torpedoes and 58 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the proposed sale, claiming that it violates a 1982 Sino-U.S. joint communique in which Washington promised "gradually to reduce" its sale of arms to Taipei, and that it "infringes on China's sovereignty and damages China's peaceful reunification."
U.S. arms deals with Taiwan have long been a stumbling block to closer relations between Washington and Beijing. In 1992, the U.S. sale of 150 F-16A/B fighters to Taipei prompted China to end its participation in conventional arms talks among the permanent members of the UN Security Council and, according to some analysts, to pursue sales of proliferation concern with Iran and Pakistan.
In fiscal year 1997, Taiwan received $5.69 billion worth of arms and military assistance from the United States, more than any other country. With the August 27 announcement, the Pentagon has proposed $810 million in Foreign Military Sales to Taiwan in 1998, nearly 20 percent more than during the same period last year. American policy, as outlined in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, is to transfer defense articles and services necessary to maintain Taiwan's "sufficient self-defense capability."
Under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, Congress must act within 30 calendar days of its August 27 notification if it wishes to block the proposed sale to Taiwan. Congress, however, has never blocked a proposed arms transfer following notice by the Defense Department.