China's Foreign Ministry spokesman charged today that recently published remarks by President Reagan in a conservative magazine "gravely distorted" the principles of the Sino-American accord on Taiwan arms sales.
Meanwhile, U.S. Embassy officials said Ambassador Arthur Hummel Jr. had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry last Saturday and remonstrated for Reagan's comments linking reduced U.S. arms sales to Peking's progress in peacefully reunifying Taiwan.
Ministry spokesman Qi Huaiyuan became the first Chinese official publicly to criticize Reagan for his remarks to Human Events magazine.
"If China's peaceful solution of the Taiwan question is taken as a prerequisite for the reduction and cessation of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan," Qi said at a news briefing, "it amounts to recognition of the U.S. right to interfere in China's internal affairs indefinitely."
Reagan told Human Events that the United States "did not give an inch" in signing a joint communique with China last August in which Washington promised to phase out arms sales to Taiwan and Peking pledged to use peaceful means to reunify the island that it considers a breakaway province.
Underlining Peking's commitment in his interview, Reagan said that if China "does indeed work out a solution agreeable to both sides, then, obviously there would no longer be any need for arms."
In the meantime, he said, the U.S. will continue to arm the nationalist stronghold according to its defense needs.
The communique that took 10 months to draft has been the source of controversy almost from the day it was issued. Cast in ambiguous language, it has been subject to varying interpretations.
"The question of Taiwan is China's internal affair," Qi told reporters today. "China brooks no foreign interference in how it solves the Taiwan question so as to achieve the reunification of the motherland."
Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats said that essentially the same arguments were presented to Hummel last Saturday. A senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official is said to have read him a "verbal representation," which is consideed less severe than a diplomatic protest.
On the same day Hummel was called in, the official New China News Agency accused Reagan of "taking a grave step backward" from the August agreement that Peking had hoped would "help lift the dark cloud over Sino-American relations."