The Cable

China to suspend some military-to-military activities with U.S. over Taiwan arms sale

The Chinese government has laid out a series of protest measures it will take in response to the Obama administration's decision to sell Taiwan a new $5.8 billion package of upgrades to its aging fleet of fighter jets.

"[Chinese officials] have indicated that they're going to suspend or to cancel or postpone a series of military-to-military engagements," a senior State Department official told reporters in New York following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Monday meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Some in Washington believe that Beijing's response to the arms sales announcement has been muted, potentially because the administration did not offer Taiwan the 66 new F-16 C/D model planes it had requested. But the official warned that there could be more retaliatory measures coming. "As I indicated, it's not unusual that some of those will come over time, not announced immediately," the official said.

Yang didn't get into specifics of China's planned retaliation in his meeting with Clinton, but he did raise the issue early and often and warned of "consequences" for the U.S.-China relationship.

"[Yang] underscored that the American ambassador in Beijing had been called in. I have been called in," the State Department official said. "And [Yang] was making very serious representations to Secretary Clinton, asked the Obama administration to reconsider this decision and indicated that it would harm the trust and confidence that was established between the two sides."

Clinton responded that the United States has a security interest in maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and that the Taiwan Relations Act provides a clear rationale for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. She also argued to Yang that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan actually improve Chinese-Taiwanese relations.

"She underscored her view that, in fact, it was...the strong support of the United States that had provided Taiwan with the confidence to reach out in diplomacy with Beijing over the course of the last several years," the official said.

The United States and China are entering a period of increased diplomatic interactions. President Barack Obama will meet Chinese officials on the sidelines of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Honolulu and the East Asia Summit in Bali in November.

Meanwhile in Washington, critics of the administration's failure to respond favorably to Taiwan's request for 66 new F-16 fighter planes lost a crucial vote last week when the Senate failed to pass, by a 48 to 48 vote, an amendment to an unrelated trade bill by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) that would have sought to compel the administration to sell Taiwan new planes.

"It's disheartening to see so many of my colleagues who supported this deal wither in the face of political pressure and stand with a White House that worries more about irritating our biggest creditor than supporting our key allies," Cornyn said in a release after the vote.

Cornyn's office is also upset that Clinton seems not to be honoring the deal she struck with the Texas senator in July, when she promised the administration would issue a decision one way or the other on the sale of the new F-16 C/D planes to Taiwan by Oct. 1. The administration is now saying that those sales are still under consideration.

"The administration promised Sen. Cornyn a decision by Oct. 1 on C/D sales. However, State Department has indicated to us we won't be getting one by Oct. 1," a Cornyn aide told The Cable.

Although Taiwan dominated the one-hour discussion between Clinton and Yang, other issues were discussed, including Syria, North Korea, the global economy, and the South China Sea. Clinton also called on Yang to begin a dialogue with the United States on Pakistan.

"We have stated this before, but there's clearly an urgency given recent developments and also given the close relationship that exists between Pakistan and China," the State Department official said.

The Cable

Huntsman hits Perry on foreign policy

GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is going after Gov. Rick Perry for his flub of a foreign policy question during last week's debate.

In a new video titled, "Foreign Policy Experience: It shows," the Huntsman campaign juxtaposed Perry's rambling answer at last week's debate to the question of what he would do if told the Taliban had gained control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons with Huntsman's answer to the same questions on Michael Smerconish's radio show today.

"Well obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That's one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with -- and that's the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States," Perry said in a rambling answer that did not even mention nukes. "For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16's, we chose not to do that. We did the same with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.

In fact, India chose not to buy American fighter planes and the United States sells F-16s to Pakistan.

In his answer, Huntsman suggested he would use U.S. forces to infiltrate Pakistan and attack the Taliban almost immediately.

"You convene the National Security Council staff immediately, you look at the intelligence, you call your closest friends and allies in the region, and you say ‘we've got to take after it  and we're going to deploy every means we have at our disposal to track down that material, to track down those weapons, and to do those people in,'" said Huntsman. "That's the only option you have. You sit around and you consider your options for too long, and the proliferation concerns are going to mount."

Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller sent out the video to reporters and wrote a note that said, "Unlike Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, Governor Huntsman has real, hands-on foreign policy experience. It showed. Compare the two responses in the video below, and then ask yourself: who would you want as Commander-in-Chief?"