French senators arrive in Taiwan amid tensions with China
A group of French senators arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday for a five-day visit following a large Chinese show of force with fighter jets amid the highest tensions in decades between China and Taiwan.
The group, led by Senator Alain Richard, will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwanese economic and health officials and the Continental Affairs Council. Richard, a former French defense minister, had previously visited Taiwan in 2015 and 2018, according to the semi-official Central News Agency, and heads the Taiwan Friendship Group in the French Senate.
Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye sent a warning letter in February calling on Richard to cancel the visit to Taiwan, according to local media.
The visit will likely elicit a rebuke from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and therefore opposes any international engagement with the island, such as visits by representatives of foreign governments. He also aggressively attacked Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies.
In its most recent display of sustained military harassment, China flew fighter jets to Taiwan 149 times in four days, from Friday to Monday. The White House called the thefts risky and destabilizing, while China responded that the United States selling arms to Taiwan and its ships sailing the Taiwan Strait were provocative.
Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told lawmakers on Wednesday that the situation “is the most serious in 40 years since I enlisted.”
China and Taiwan parted ways in the midst of civil war in 1949. Today, they have extensive trade and investment relations, but no official relations, and China has increasingly mobilized military pressure, diplomatic and economic to undermine the administration of Tsai, favorable to independence.