Beijing imposes sanctions on Lockheed Martin over Taiwan arms sales

China will impose sanctions on American weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin in retaliation for US approval of a deal to sell Taiwan missile parts, the country’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

China has long complained about US weapons sales to Taiwan. Zhao Lijian, foreign ministry spokesman, reiterated that point when announcing the measures against the US group: “China firmly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan.”

The US state department approved a sale of more than $600m last week in missile parts to Taiwan for refurbishing Patriot missiles, although that deal has not been carried out yet. Taiwan uses Patriot missiles to defend its military installations against air attacks.

The People’s Republic of China claims Taiwan as its territory although it has never ruled it, and threatens to attack if Taipei resists to submit under its control indefinitely.

Although the US cancelled its defence treaty with Taipei after switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, Washington remains the unofficial guarantor of Taiwan’s security through a pledge anchored in US law to help the country defend itself.

Taiwan’s military, which is holding its annual Hankuang live-fire exercise this week simulating Chinese attacks, is mainly equipped with US weapons.

The sanctions to be imposed against Lockheed Martin were announced as tension between the world’s two largest economies climbed to its most dangerous level in generations. 

Washington and Beijing have imposed tit-for-tat sanctions and other measures on each other for several months. They have clashed over the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, the status of Chinese technology group Huawei, alleged human rights abuses in western China and the future of Hong Kong.

On Monday, China said it would impose sanctions on US lawmakers, including influential Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Those sanctions were a retaliation to US measures announced by Washington last week over alleged human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province.