A senior Chinese general strongly objected to the possible U.S. sale of theater missile defenses to Taiwan during talks this week that ended a nine-month hiatus in military exchanges between the United States and China, administration officials said yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, director of intelligence and deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, agreed during a three-day visit here to continue the military-to-military talks, which China halted after NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

According to U.S. officials, Xiong warned that a sale of anti-missile systems to Taiwan would, in China's view, violate the 1979 pact in which the United States agreed to recognize Beijing's government, sever its defense pact with Taiwan and withdraw U.S. military forces from the island.

"For its own defense needs, if the United States wants to develop a [theater missile defense] system, that's its own business," said a senior Chinese official here. "What we don't want to see is TMD covering Taiwan. That would . . . damage U.S.-China . . . relations."

U.S. officials urged China to use restraint in the weeks before the March presidential elections in Taiwan. Before the 1996 Taiwan presidential elections, China fired missiles off Taiwan's coast in an effort to intimidate voters.