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Taiwan hopes US arms sales will go on despite beef dispute

by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Jan 4, 2010
Taiwan said Monday it hoped the United States would continue its arms sales despite friction over a likely decision by the island to resume a ban on some US beef imports.

"We hope the Unites States will keep offering defensive weapons to the Republic of China," defence ministry spokesman Yu Sy-tue told AFP, referring to Taiwan by its official name.

He was commenting on reports that Washington may halt arms sales to Taipei if Taiwan's parliament votes Tuesday to amend a law on food health to ban imports of US cow organs, minced beef and other items considered high risk.

The Taipei-based Liberty Times last week cited an unnamed official as saying the government hoped any US punitive measures would be limited to trade and not affect arms sales.

The United States has been the leading arms supplier to Taiwan even after it switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but it has expressed dismay at the plan for the partial beef ban.

The move would partially overturn a decision by the health department in October to allow imports of US beef-on-the-bone and cow organs, which met with a public outcry.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Taipei in November to protest, saying the government had ignored concerns over mad cow disease, the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Some scientists believe that consumption of the brains and spinal cords of animals infected with BSE can lead to the potentially fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

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