China has protested plans by the Reagan administration to sell Taiwan $530 million in arms, charging that antiaircraft missiles included in the package would significantly upgrade the arsenal of the rival Chinesegovernment.
The protest lodged yesterday in Washington by Chinese Ambassador Zhang Wenjin said the latest arms deal "aroused grave concern" for exceeding the qualitative ceiling on weapons to Taiwan set by the United States in an agreement with China in August.
Western diplomats in Peking rejected the charge, saying the new antiaircraft missiles are no more sophisticated than weapons already in Taiwan's inventory.
Yesterday's protest was sharper than Peking's initially bland reaction last week, which had been seen as a conciliatory move to coincide with the overall mellowing of relations after two years of squabbling.
Diplomats said yesterday's protest nevertheless was a routine reiteration of China's stand on arms sales and should not interfere with the planned exchange of visits this fall by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian.
The analysts said Peking simply is trying to extract more than it has the right to expect from a U.S. pledge less than a year old to gradually reduce the quantity and quality of arms sales to Taiwan, which Peking considers a part of its territory.
In the agreement, Washington promised not to exceed the volume or technological sophistication of weapons sold to Taiwan since U.S. recognition was shifted from Taipei to Peking in 1979.
Zhang said in his protest that the latest arms package "seriously contravenes" the August agreement by including AIM7F Sparrow missiles and Standard ship-to-air missiles that, he contends, are superior to weapons already held by Taiwan.
The AIM7F, he said, represents a "fairly big improvement" over Taiwan's Sidewinder air-to-air missile while the Standard ship-to-air outperforms the Chaparral model now in Taiwan's arsenal. "It is obvious that the U.S. contention that the provision of the above new types of missiles to Taiwan will not raise Taiwan's antiaircraft capabilities is untenable," he said.
The Sparrow is a radar-homing missile and the Sidewinder is a heat-seeking missile. Both have been sold in large numbers to North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and other close U.S. allies. The AIM7F is an improved version of the original Sparrow, with a larger motor and more advanced homing system, according to Jane's "All the World's Aircraft."
Zhang said U.S. refusal to discuss with Peking the qualitative features of every weapon it plans to sell Taiwan is "totally unacceptable." He added: "If there is no examination of the qualities of specific items, then the statement that U.S. arms sales will not exceed in qualitative terms the level of those supplied in recent years will become unverifiable empty talk."
According to Western diplomats, Washington is unwilling to review its Taiwan arms sales in advance with Peking because such procedures are likely to generate more disagreement than accord due to conflicting interpretations of the weapons.
"You have to ask yourself if anything the U.S. government sells Taiwan would satisfy the Chinese," said a diplomat. "They object to all arms sales and they're not going to be happy until they're ended completely."
The latest arms package is about $200 million less than originally planned, but it still represents the administration's largest sale to Taiwan.
U.S. officials said the sales conform with the August agreement, which froze the volume of sales at $800 million. Although $320 million worth of arms has been sold to Taiwan this year, the items included in the most recent package would not all go there in 1983.