A group of French senators arrived Wednesday in Taiwan for a five-day visit, after China’s show of great power with its fighter jets amid the highest tensions in decades between China and Taiwan.
The group, led by senator Alain Richard, is scheduled to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan economic and health officials and the Mainland China Affairs Council. Richard, a former French defense minister, previously visited Taiwan in 2015 and 2018, said the semi-official Taiwan Central News Agency, and heads the Taiwan Partnership group in the French Senate.
China’s ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, sent a warning letter in February asking Richard to cancel a visit to Taiwan, according to local media reports.
The visit is likely to provoke criticism from China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its territory and therefore opposes any international involvement with Taiwan, including visits by foreign government officials. China is also aggressively approaching Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies.
In its recent continuous military disruption, China flew fighter jets 149 times towards Taiwan over four days from Friday last week to Monday. The White House called the flights dangerous and destabilizing, while China responded by declaring the US arms sales to Taiwan and its ships sailing in the Taiwan Strait a provocative act.
Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-chen told legislators Wednesday that the situation was “the worst in the 40 years since I joined the military.” Chiu answered legislators’ questions, while parliament decided whether to approve a special budget for air and sea defense purchases.
China and Taiwan separated in the midst of a civil war in 1949. Today they have extensive trade and investment ties but no formal ties, and China has stepped up mobilizing military, diplomatic and economic pressure to undermine Tsai’s independence-leaning government. . [uh/ab]