A leading U.S. senator says Washington will continue to sell weapons to Taiwan, despite opposition from the Chinese government. The arms deal dominated discussions between a U.S. Senate delegation and the head of China's parliament.
Emerging from a meeting with the head of China's parliament in Beijing, Republican Senator Ted Stevens said Washington is not backing down from its plan to sell new anti-missile systems, planes and submarines to Taiwan. China strongly opposes the deal.
Senator Stevens, the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, said that Tuesday's meeting with Wu Bangguo involved "lengthy and forceful" discussions about the issue.
"And we are still maintaining our position that Taiwan should be able to defend itself against a military attack," he said.
China has pushed the United States to cancel the $18 billion weapons sale. Last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao telephoned President Bush to express displeasure over the deal.
Beijing believes the arms sale could encourage pro-independence groups in Taiwan. The party of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian favors independence, although the president himself has backed away from that position.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory, which must be eventually reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
The United States is bound by its Taiwan Relations Act to help the island defend itself. But Washington also formally recognized the so-called one China policy that Beijing follows.
"We believe that we are still following the 1979 policy set down by China itself in recognizing one China, but in the same time opposing any attempt by either side to change the relationships between Taiwan and the mainland by force," said Senator Stevens.
The U.S. delegation is on a week-long visit to China as part of exchanges between lawmakers from both countries.
In recent months, China's leadership has repeatedly expressed its anger over Washington's relationship with Taiwan.