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Taiwan's Request to Buy US Military Hardware Draws Ire From China

FILE - Tanks are seen during military exercises in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, Jan. 30, 2018.
FILE - Tanks are seen during military exercises in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, Jan. 30, 2018.

Taiwan says it has formally made a request to the United States to purchase new state-of-the-art military tanks and anti-tank missile systems, a move that drew an angry response from China.

The self-ruled island's Defense Ministry announced Thursday that it wants to buy 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks, over 1,500 anti-tank missiles, and 250 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, worth a combined $2 billion. The ministry says the request is proceeding "as normal."

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged Washington "to fully understand the sensitive and serious harm" that would come from selling military hardware to Taiwan, and to "abide by the one China principle."

China and Taiwan split after the 1949 civil war when Chaing Kai-shek's Nationalist forces were driven off the mainland by Mao Zedong's Communists and sought refuge on Taiwan. But Beijing considers the island part of its territory and has vowed to take control of it, by force if necessary.

The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, but presidents are bound by law to supply it with arms and come to its defense.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have been strained since President Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016 and refused to accept the concept of China and Taiwan joined together as "one China."

Beijing has since mounted an aggressive posture toward Taipei, such as carrying out military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, blocking Taipei's participation in international organizations, and persuading several nations to switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China.