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U.S. plans to sell $180 million in torpedoes to Taiwan, riling China

The Trump administration told Congress on Wednesday that it is planning to sell an estimated $180 million worth of torpedoes to Taiwan. It's a move likely to further escalate tensions between the U.S. and China, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the State Department had approved a possible sale of 18 MK-48 Mod6 Advanced Technology Heavy Weight Torpedoes to Taiwan. The sale will also include equipment, training, logistics support and U.S. government and contractor engineering.

The agency said the proposed sale "is consistent with U.S. law and policy" according to the Taiwan Relations Act, which defines the terms of U.S. relations with Taiwan. It said the sale serves U.S. interests by helping Taiwan "to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability."

The U.S. does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan — which is formally known as the Republic of China — but it has provided arms to Taiwan for decades. The U.S. and most other countries follow a "One China" policy, which recognizes the People's Republic of China as the only Chinese government. 

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the sale, calling for the U.S. to stop any further arms sales and military ties with Taiwan to "avoid further damage" in relations.

"China is firmly opposed to the US arms sales to Taiwan and has made solemn representations to the US," ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a statement. 

The sale came the same day as the second inauguration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who advocates for Taiwan being an independent state. 

The U.S. further riled China on Wednesday when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement praising Tsai, saying her "courage and vision in leading Taiwan's vibrant democracy is an inspiration to the region and the world." The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had "strong dissatisfaction" and "firm opposition" to Pompeo's remarks. 

The sale comes as the U.S. and China continue to feud over the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak started in Wuhan, China, in December before spreading around the world this year.

President Trump has repeatedly blamed China for the pandemic, alleging that the country could have contained the virus before it spread and that it is hiding what it knows about the virus. The president and some administration officials have also suggested they have evidence that coronavirus came out of a research facility in Wuhan, though this has not been proven and China denies it.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security said that hackers tied to the Chinese government are targeting U.S. organizations conducting research on the virus. 

China, in turn, has said the Trump administration is trying to shift blame for its own handling of the virus, as the U.S. now has the most confirmed cases and deaths of any country in the world.

As the U.S. and China feud, health experts have praised Taiwan for its handling of the virus, citing it as an example for other nations to follow. 

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