BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Wednesday criticized U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for praising Beijing's measured reaction to the latest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, repaying his compliment by saying the deal was "unprofessional."
Past U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have prompted Beijing to temporarily cut-off ties with the U.S. military, as happened after last year's $6.4 billion arms package. China deems the self-ruled island an illegitimate breakaway from Beijing's rule that must accept eventual reunification.
But last month's U.S. announcement of a $5.85 billion arms package for Taiwan, including upgrades to F-16 A/B fighter aircraft, has been different, with China handling it in a "professional and diplomatic way," Panetta said.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun begged to differ.
"Frankly, if I may borrow Mr. Panetta's words, I think the way the United States handles certain issues in Sino-U.S. relations is neither professional nor diplomatic," he told a news briefing in Beijing.
The United States had not abided by promises to reduce and ultimately stop arms sales to Taiwan, once more damaging China's core interests, Yang said, according to a transcript posted on the ministry's website (www.mod.gov.cn).
"An important precondition for the stable development of Sino-U.S. military relations is the respect and consideration shown toward each other's core interests and important areas of concern," he said.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Chris Buckley and Nick Macfie)