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China lodges protest after French warships passes through Taiwan Strait

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Foreign naval officers talk on the deck of the naval training ship Qi Jiguang before a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China's PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao in the eastern China's Shandong province on April 23, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Beijing says it has lodged “stern representations” with Paris after a French navy warship entered the Taiwan Strait earlier this month, prompting the Chinese military to scramble vessels to warn it off. 

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a regularly scheduled media briefing in Beijing on Thursday that the French warship "illegally entered China's territorial waters" on April 7.

Ren said warships were sent to escort the French vessel away from Chinese waters. "The Chinese military sent warships in accordance with the law, in order to identify the French ship, and warn it to sail away."

"The Chinese military is always on high alert and firmly defends the sovereignty and security of the country," the spokesman stressed.

A source close to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) told the South China Morning Post that Beijing felt the French warship’s journey into the strait was “obviously instigated” by the United States.

Following the incident, China withdrew an invitation to a French warship to take part in Tuesday’s naval parade off the port city of Qingdao in the eastern Shandong province.

The French operation comes amid increasing tensions between the United States and China.

This also comes against the backdrop of increasingly regular passages by US warships through the strategic waterway. Last month, the United States sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing sees self-governed Taiwan as its territory awaiting reunification, but the United States has been the country that defies the claim by sailing through the strait.

 Beijing has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island.

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