China says it will impose new sanctions on United States defence contractors Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin due to their arms sales to Taiwan, stepping up a feud with Washington over security and Beijing’s strategic ambitions.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Monday announced the move at a daily press briefing, citing a newly passed Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law that took effect in 2021. It was in response to a $100m deal approved by the US for maintenance of Taiwan’s missile defence systems by the two companies.
“China once again urges the US government and relevant parties to … stop arms sales to Taiwan and sever military ties with Taiwan,” Wang said.
“China will continue to take all necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty and security interests in accordance with the development of the situation,” he said without giving any details.
Taiwan is a democratically self-governed island that communist-ruled China claims as its own territory. The two sides split amid the civil war in 1949.
The US has no formal relations with Taiwan but is its main ally. It has increased weapons sales in recent years, angering China with the sales. US law requires the government to ensure Taiwan can defend itself.
Beijing regularly pressures American companies to try to influence the US policy.
In October 2020, Beijing also announced sanctions against Raytheon and other defence contractors and “relevant American individuals”. A day later, the State Department said it had notified Congress of plans for a $2.37bn sale of Harpoon attack missiles to Taiwan.
It is unclear what penalties, if any, were imposed. US weapons or military aircraft sales to Taiwan in 2010, 2015 and 2019 drew similar threats of sanctions.
China maintains that US arms sale to Taiwan violates its so-called “one-China principle” and provisions of agreements between Beijing and Washington.
Tensions over Taiwan have been mounting as Beijing has stepped up military activity around the island to try to force concessions from the pro-independence administration of President Tsai Ing-wen. The Communist Party is also using the Chinese mainland’s growing economic weight to pressure other governments to cut diplomatic and unofficial ties with Taiwan.
Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other defence industry giants face controls on sales to China of military and dual-use technologies that have defence and commercial applications. But they also have major civilian businesses and China is a huge market for aviation, among other industries.