BEIJING (AP) -- China on Tuesday warned the United States against any future arms sales to Taiwan, including F-16 fighter jets the island has been pushing for in hopes of upgrading its air defense capabilities.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China is firmly opposed to U.S. sales of weapons to Taiwan, the self-ruled island that the communist government in Beijing regards as part of its territory and has vowed to conquer by force if necessary.
Asked to comment on reports that Taiwan is pushing to buy F-16s from the United States, Qin said Beijing hoped the U.S. would "take China's position seriously and respect China's core interests and major concerns."
Incensed by the January announcement that the U.S. planned to sell $6.4 billion in weapons to Taiwan, Beijing suspended military exchanges with the U.S. and has threatened to retaliate against U.S. aerospace firms involved in the deal.
Since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou came into office in May 2008, Taiwan has consistently pressed the United States to supply it with 66 F-16 C/Ds, an upgrade on its present inventory of F-16 A/Bs.
The issue was underscored last month when a Pentagon report painted a grim picture of Taiwan's air defense capabilities, saying that many of the island's 400 combat aircraft would not be available to help withstand an attack from rival China.
Many observers saw the study as justification for the possible sale of advanced fighter jets to Taiwan. The U.S. says the F-16 request remains under study.
Despite rapidly warming relations with Beijing, Taiwan maintains that it needs state-of-the-art weaponry from the U.S. to help it counter China's threat to attack.