French Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu on Wednesday appeared to rebuff China’s claims of sovereignty over the Taiwan Strait in telling the French Senate that Paris would ensure freedom of navigation in the region.
Lecornu made the remark after French Senator Olivier Cadic brought up security in the Indo-Pacific region during a question-and-answer session.
Cadic said that prior to his visit to Taipei last year with French Senator Alain Richard, who heads the Taiwan Friendship Group, 56 Chinese military aircraft had entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
Taipei continues to be harassed by Beijing, which has sent 55 percent more military aircraft toward Taiwan so far this year compared with the same period last year, he said.
In addition, Chinese and Russian warships sailed past waters near Japan on July 4, he said, adding that French Navy Chief of Staff Pierre Vandier had said that China is threatening more countries around the South China Sea more frequently.
“The militarization and polarization in the Indo-Pacific region are unfortunate facts, and France should respond to them,” he said, asking the minister about how to enhance the country’s military presence in the region.
He then asked Lecornu about Taiwan issues, given that China last month claimed ownership of the Taiwan Strait as the French Senate is next week to welcome Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃).
“Regarding the measures France takes to ensure the freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Strait, what can we tell the speaker?” he asked.
Lecornu said that France would protect that freedom.
“Diplomatically, it is France’s stance that Taiwan and China should keep communicating. Militarily, without a doubt, France would ensure the freedom of navigation protected by international laws,” he said.
He said that the patrolling missions in international waters are part of the efforts to ensure that freedom, adding that sending nuclear-powered submarines to patrol the South China Sea would “urge other countries to follow the international law of the sea.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday last week said that the Taiwan Strait was not international waters and that China has “sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over it.
The US Department of State issued a statement on Saturday last week saying that “the Taiwan Strait is an international waterway.”
Although Lecornu did not mention the Strait specifically, his statement made France the first European country to support Taiwan on the issue and reiterate the importance of the freedom of navigation.
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