Asia

French lawmakers arrive in Taiwan for 5-day visit

TAIPEI (AFP) – A delegation of French lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday (Dec 15) in the latest sign of increasingly vocal Western support for Taipei having a place on the world stage despite threats from Beijing.

It is the second time this year a delegation from France has visited the island and is the latest in a flurry of trips made by European and American politicians that have angered China.

The six-member delegation from the French National Assembly, led by Mr Francois de Rugy, will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and other top officials before leaving on Sunday, Taipei’s Foreign Ministry said.

In October, China condemned a visit to Taiwan by a group of French senators led by Mr Alain Richard, accusing the delegation of undermining relations between Paris and Beijing.

Mr Richard’s group made the trip despite warnings from China and he called Taiwan a “country” repeatedly during his stay.

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry criticised the latest French visit, saying “relevant parties should… stop sending false signals to Taiwan independence separatist forces”.

“China firmly opposes any official and political exchanges between Taiwan and other countries,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian.

Beijing claims self-ruled democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken one day, by force if necessary.

It has tried to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and seethes at the official use of the name Taiwan or any reference to it as a country.

Since Ms Tsai’s 2016 election win, Beijing has ramped up pressure on Taiwan and aggressively tried to dissuade politicians from visiting.

China conducted military drills near the Taiwan Strait following a visit by a group of American lawmakers last month.

Taiwan’s Defence Minister has warned that military tensions between the island and China were at their highest in four decades, after around 150 Chinese warplanes – a record number – made incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone in October.

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