Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE

The USA has sold $550 million-worth of airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, spare parts and equipment to Taiwan, aggravating the already strained relations between Washington and Beijing.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced on 30 July that it is proposing a $400 million deal for two Northrop Grumman E-2T Hawkeye AEW aircraft to the island, which Beijing considers a renegade province of China. A further $150 million Co-operative Logistics Supply Support Arrangement (CLSSA) for spares to support other Taiwanese military aircraft has also been announced.

The CLSSA includes spares and systems for Taiwan air force Northrop F-5E/F fighters, Lockheed Martin C-130H transport aircraft and Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation Ching Kuo and Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fighters.

"The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region," says the DoD, adding that the sale is consistent with US law and policy.

The E-2Ts will be equipped with Lockheed Martin APS-145 radars-which are more powerful than the APS-138s fitted to the four Hawkeyes already in Taiwanese service.

In response, Chinese deputy foreign minister Yang Jiechi summoned US chargé d'affaires James Moriarty to lodge a protest on behalf of the Chinese Government. According to official Chinese reports, the sale was "clearly in defiance of the firm objection and solemn arguments of the Chinese Government".

Yang has demanded that the sale be cancelled, adding that the deal is "a gross sign of interference in China's internal affairs and an encroachment on Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity".

Relations between the USA and China remain fraught since the accidental US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during Operation Allied Force over Yugoslavia. Tension between Beijing and Taipei has reached a new high with Taiwanese president Lee Teng-Hui's abandonment of the diplomatic policy recognising that there is only one China, and his demand for "special state-to-state" relations between Taiwan and the mainland.

• China has announced that it tested a "new type" of long-range surface-to-surface missile - believed to be the Dong Feng (East Wind) 31 - "within its territory" on 2 August. The missile can deliver a 700kg (1,500lb) warhead up to a range of 8,000km (4,300nm). The test launch comes amid increased military activity in the south east of China, resulting from the continuing diplomatic row across the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile, North Korea appears to be preparing to fire its Taepo Dong ballistic missile, first fired last August.

Source: Flight International