A group of French lawmakers landed in Taiwan yesterday, the first high-level European delegation since China conducted huge war drills in the wake of a visit to the nation by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The trip came as Taiwan held two days of live-fire drills in Pingtung County.
Beijing has lashed out at any diplomatic action that might lend Taiwan legitimacy, and has responded with growing anger to visits by Western officials and politicians.
The group of five lawmakers is led by French Senator Cyril Pellevat, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, adding that it was the fourth visit by French politicians in the past 12 months.
Last month, China sent warships, missiles and fighter jets into the waters and skies around Taiwan in a show of opposition to Pelosi’s presence — its largest and most aggressive exercises since the mid-1990s.
Pelosi, a veteran Beijing critic, was the most senior US politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years. She was followed by multiple separate US delegations last month.
Photo: Ritchie B. Tongo, EPA-EFE
China’s exercises triggered widespread support in the US for solidarity with Taiwan, which already has rare bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.
Many European powers have also grown more vocal in support of Taiwan in the past few years, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deepened fears that China might do the same to Taiwan.
Politicians from European countries regularly visit the nation.
Beijing has adopted an increasingly bellicose approach to Taiwan under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), the country’s most authoritarian leader in a generation.
Xi, who is on the cusp of securing an unprecedented third term, has hitched Taiwan’s fate to his landmark “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” policy.
Like most nations, the US and France officially recognize Beijing over Taipei, but they remain key allies of Taiwan and maintain de facto diplomatic ties with the nation.
Washington’s official policy opposes Taiwan declaring independence and China forcibly changing the Taiwan’s status.
On Tuesday, Taiwanese troops carried out dramatic nighttime live-fire drills, with tanks illuminated by sudden flashes of flame as they fired shells while tracer rounds arced across the night sky.
“We will prepare for war, but will not seek war,” Huang Jing-feng, a battalion commander, told reporters. “We will carry on training to elevate each soldier’s combat skills.”
The drills continued yesterday, with tanks, combat helicopters and mobile missile launchers conducting firing exercises.
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