China has strongly condemned US plans for a $5.3bn upgrade to Taiwan's US-built F-16s, calling it a "grave interference" in its internal affairs and threatened to undermine relations with the US.
The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that Zhang Zhijun, the country's deputy foreign minister, summoned the US ambassador in Beijing, Gary Locke, to deliver the protest over the warplanes deal.
"The wrongdoing by the US side will inevitably undermine bilateral relations as well as exchanges and co-operation in military and security areas," Zhang told Locke, according to the statement.
Zhang voiced his country's "strong indignation and resolute opposition" to the deal, according to his ministry's website.
"No matter what the excuses and reasons, there can be no hiding that the United States announcement of plans to sell arms to Taiwan is grave interference in China's domestic affairs and sends a gravely mistaken signal to pro-Taiwan independence separatist forces," Zhang said.
Villem Van Kemenade, an analayst specialising in China's global relations, emphasised that China's concerns over the F-16 deal are mainly political.
"China is fed up with having its sovereignty over Taiwan, which is recognised by most of the world, ignored by the US," he told Al Jazeera.
"Taiwan is having an election very soon and the anti-China party may come into power. The renewed full US support for Taiwan in a military sense is a double challenge for China in the coming years."
The Pentagon said on Wednesday that it had agreed to the deal, which would include equipment, logistical support and training.
"Mainland China's military expansion and threat against the ROC still exist," Taiwan's defence ministry said in a statement. The Republic of China (ROC) is Taiwan's formal name.
"Improving our defence capability is a crucial and only measure to sustain regional security and stable development across the [Taiwan] strait."
Past US arms sales to Taiwan have annoyed China, which has always considered the use of force to be on the table for bringing the island under its control.
The AP news agency, however, reported that while the US had agreed to the F-16 upgrade, the country would not be providing Taiwan with any new later-generation F-16/C and F-16/D aircraft, as Taiwan had requested.
Taiwan's defence ministry said that an upgrade package for the F-16 A/B fighter jet fleet by the US will contribute to regional peace by improving Taiwanese capabilities in the face of a threat from China.
Taiwan's military capabilities have for years been more advanced than China's, based on co-operation with several other countries, but in recent years all but the US have abandoned deals with it, fearing an angry response from China.
As China's air force has modernised, Taiwan's aerial military advantage has been steadily eroded. Analysts say this deal would do little to alter the balance.
In January 2010, China froze military ties and threatened sanctions against US firms after President Barack Obama approved a potential $6.4bn arms sale to Taiwan left over from the administration of George Bush.
Relations between China and Taiwan have warmed since Ma Ying-jeou was elected president of the island in 2008.
Ma has since signed a series of economic and trade deals, which have helped to bolster the island's economy.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies