France on Wednesday dismissed China’s warnings about selling arms to Taiwan, saying it was implementing existing deals and that Beijing should focus on battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Paris over a contract for Taiwan, which is planning to with weapons as part of an upgrade to a French-made warship fleet bought 30 years ago.
The French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs responded by saying it followed a “one China” policy as agreed with Beijing in 1994 and continued to urge both sides to hold dialogue.
“Within this context France respects the contractual commitments it made with Taiwan and has not changed its position since 1994,” the French ministry said in a statement. “Facing the COVID-19 crisis, all our attention and efforts should be focused on battling the pandemic.”
The timing of the dispute is awkward for Paris, which has ordered millions of masks from China because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Last month, the French foreign ministry summoned China’s ambassador over posts and tweets by the embassy defending Beijing’s response to the pandemic and criticizing the West’s handling of the outbreak.
Taiwan is mostly equipped with US-made weapons, but in 1991 France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates. France in 1992 sold Taiwan 60 Mirage fighter jets.
Taiwan last month said that it was seeking to buy equipment from France to upgrade the ships’ missile interference system.
The Ministry of National Defense quoted the navy as saying it was following related procurement regulations for the purchase to meet its “combat needs.” It declined further comment.
Media reported that Taiwan was proposing to spend around NT$800 million (US$26.71 million) on the DAGAIE missile interference system from French firm DCI-DESCO.
Taiwan says it needs to upgrade its armed forces to deal with a growing threat from China, which has stepped up military drills near the nation.
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