China Blasts U.S. Over Trump's Allegations of Election Meddling

(Bloomberg) -- China refuted President Donald Trump’s accusations that Beijing is trying to interfere with congressional elections, a move that further raises tensions as the world’s biggest economies fight a trade war.

“We urge the U.S. to stop smearing and accusing China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a briefing Thursday. “China has all along followed the principle of non-interference and refuses to accept any groundless accusations.”

Trump on Wednesday claimed Beijing was meddling in November’s midterms, and said in response to a question that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping might not be friends anymore as a result.

That remark signaled a further deterioration in ties, feeding fears that the two countries are heading toward a longer term confrontation that could have widespread geopolitical ramifications. He provided no evidence at a UN Security Council meeting where he first leveled the allegation of election meddling.

Also on Thursday, China’s defense ministry demanded the U.S. “take a reasonable and sincere attitude” regarding military ties between the two countries, after Washington this week approved a new $330 million military sale to Taiwan. China considers the democratically run island one of its provinces.

‘Far-Fetched’

“Arms sales undermine trust between the U.S. and Chinese militaries,” Ren Guoqiang, a defense ministry spokesman, told reporters. He reiterated China’s opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, saying Xi’s government had a problem with the “nature” of the sales and not the “quantity.”

Asked about the latest round of U.S. sanctions on some $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, Ren said the U.S. should “solely be blamed for the current problems and bear the full consequences. We demand that the U.S. side take a reasonable and mature attitude and act with sincerity, taking concrete actions to improve bilateral military to military relations.”

Trump’s remarks about Xi came three days after China placed an advertising supplement in Iowa’s largest newspaper attacking his trade policies.

The advertisement had been in accordance with U.S. law that allows the cooperation of foreign and American media, said Geng, the foreign ministry spokesman. He said that categorizing the action as Chinese interference in the U.S. election was “far-fetched and false.”

As Trump’s trade feud with Xi escalated this week at the UN, Beijing denied a port call request by a U.S. Navy warship, the USS Wasp, in Hong Kong. China’s move came after the U.S. penalized China’s Equipment Development Department -- the agency that oversees its defense technology -- and its director for allegedly engaging in the purchase of Russian weapons, which it called a violation of U.S. sanctions.

Geng said he had no further comment on the refusal to let the ship dock, or on whether a discussed visit to the U.S. by Defense Minister Wei Fenghe would still be scheduled.

The vessel added to a growing list of tensions between the U.S. and China that go beyond their trade dispute. They are also battling for influence in the South China Sea, where the U.S. uses warships and fighter jets to regularly challenge China’s claims to more than 80 percent of the waters.

Asked about recent exercises in the sea by U.S. allies France and the U.K., Ren, the defense ministry spokesman, said China opposed provocative actions in the name of freedom of navigation.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.