Taiwan welcomes planned visit by French senators in October

22-Sep-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 7:07 AM Print This Post

Taiwan has welcomed a planned visit by French senators next month that is set to go ahead despite opposition from Beijing.

Senator Alain Richard, a former defence minister, is expected to lead a delegation to Taiwan from October 4 to 11. The trip is certain to irk Beijing, which claims the self-governed island as part of its territory and has warned Richard not to engage in official exchanges with Taipei, fearing politicians from other European countries could follow suit.

Richard, head of the French Senate’s Taiwan Friendship Group, plans to make the trip with the group’s vice-presidents, Max Brisson and Andre Vallini, and secretary Olivier Cadic, French media outlet La Lettre A reported on Monday.

Taiwanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou on Tuesday said the government “enthusiastically” welcomed the delegation and that details of the visit were still being worked out.

Richard told Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency in March, when the plan was revealed, that the main purpose of the visit was to see how Taiwan had handled the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic progress. He said they would also discuss France and Taiwan’s regional and global strategy.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Ou noted that Richard was going ahead with the trip despite opposition from the Chinese ambassador to France.

After the plan emerged in March, envoy Lu Shaye sent a letter to Richard expressing “serious concern” about the trip and asking him not to engage in any official exchanges with the Taiwanese authorities.

Lu said the visit would result in “unnecessary interference” in relations between Beijing and Taipei and that Richard should abide by the one-China principle. Richard was reportedly “very displeased” with the tone of the letter.

Richard was France’s defence minister from 1997 to 2002 and has promoted exchanges with Taiwan, leading delegations to the island in 2015 and 2018. He initiated a resolution adopted by the Senate in May supporting Taiwan’s participation in international bodies something Beijing opposes.

France, like the European Union and its members, does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution underlining the importance of trade and economic ties between Brussels and Taipei and calling for talks on an investment deal with the island.

It also called for “concrete proposals and action” by the European Commission to facilitate Taiwan’s full participation as an observer in UN agencies like the World Health Organization, further angering Beijing.

The parliament had earlier called for the EU to support Lithuania over its decision to allow the island to open a de facto embassy using the name “Taiwan”, a move that prompted Beijing to recall its ambassador and demand Vilnius do the same.

It comes as tensions have been rising across the Taiwan Strait, with Beijing ramping up military pressure on the island by sending warplanes into its air defence identification zone on an almost daily basis.



Category: Taiwan

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