U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has praised China for its muted reaction to the latest U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.
Last month the Obama administration announced it is providing Taiwan with a multi-billion dollar arms package that includes upgrades to the island’s F-16 fighter jets.
Panetta spoke with reporters on the Indonesian island of Bali where he conferred Sunday with the country’s defense minister, Purnomo Yusgiantoro. The U.S. official said China has handled the Taiwan deal in what he described as a “professional and diplomatic way.” He suggested that the U.S. administration’s decision to provide Beijing with a “heads up” before the announcement of the sale may have contributed to the measured reaction.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and considers U.S. arms sales as interference in Beijing’s efforts for reunification.
Panetta also discussed U.S. military ties with Indonesia, which until last year had been frozen for more than a decade over alleged human rights abuses by the country’s special forces known as Kopassus.
The U.S. defense secretary is at the start of an Asian tour that takes him next to Japan and then South Korea. The trip coincides with talks between the United States and North Korea on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Those talks begin Monday in Geneva.
Before leaving Bali, Panetta is meeting with Indonesia’s president, Bambang Yudhoyono, and also with other defense ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations who have gathered on the resort island.