France joins effort to support Taiwan and democracy, defying China

French lawmakers met with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday to discuss the island’s de facto autonomous status. They expressed support for Ms. Tsai’s policies regarding “freedom and democracy” and said that they’re working to deepen economic ties.

Taiwan Presidential Office/AP
Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen (right) poses with French senator Joël Guerriau during a visit at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, June 9, 2022. The French delegation pledged support for Taiwan's status despite Chinese territorial claims.

A French parliamentary delegation pledged support for Taiwan during a meeting Thursday with the president of the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory with no right to diplomatic recognition.

Senator Joël Guerriau, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Armed Forces, told Tsai Ing-wen he would “help Taiwan oppose its oppressors and promote Taiwan’s freedom.”

Ms. Tsai, who won a second term as president in 2020, emphasized the strong connection between Taiwan’s high-tech economy and countries in the European Union.

“We expect Taiwan and France to continue to deepen cooperation in various fields,” Ms. Tsai said. France assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union in January.

The visit comes amid concerns that China is heightening its presence in the Taiwan Strait, as the Monitor reported last month:

The Taiwan Strait may be heating up. More than 70 Chinese military aircraft have encroached on Taiwan’s air defense zone this month, including fighter jets and bombers. On Wednesday, China’s military announced a large-scale air and naval combat exercise around the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its territory. ... The war in Ukraine has also showcased the ability of the United States and Europe to act with a high degree of unity in providing significant economic and military support – backup that would be even greater for Taiwan, which is more central to U.S. interests.

The visit is the third by French lawmakers to Taiwan in recent months, and follows a meeting earlier this week between Ms. Tsai and a group of Slovak lawmakers who offered similar expressions of support for the island’s democracy.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said “China is firmly opposed to any forms of official and political contacts between Taiwan and countries that have diplomatic ties with China.”

“We urge the relevant party to … avoid sending wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, and take concrete actions to maintain the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations,” Mr. Zhao said at a daily briefing.

Taiwan has drawn increasing support from European nations in defiance of China, while current and retired U.S. politicians have also visited the island to show Washington’s backing.

On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department notified Congress that it has approved a possible sale of $120 million in spare parts for ships to Taiwan. China strongly opposes such sales.

French Senators Vincent Éblé, Sylvie Goy-Chavent, Dany Wattebled, and Ludovic Haye were accompanying Guerriau on the six-day visit.

In February, the European Commission unveiled the European Chips Act aimed at enabling the EU to work more closely with Taiwan and other world leaders in the semiconductor industry.

China routinely threatens retaliation against politicians and countries that show support for Taiwan, which has only informal relations with the U.S., France and most other countries as a result of Chinese diplomatic pressure.

Beijing downgraded relations and blocked imports from Lithuania, a member of both the EU and NATO, after the Baltic nation broke with diplomatic custom by agreeing that a Taiwanese representative office in its capital of Vilnius would bear the name Taiwan instead of Chinese Taipei, which other countries use to avoid offending Beijing.

The story was reported by The Associated Press.

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