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China warns France not to harm bilateral ties by selling weapons to Taiwan

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)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference in Beijing, China, on April 8, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

China has warned France not to sell weapons to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, saying such a move would harm bilateral ties.

China claims full sovereignty over the island and almost all world countries adhere to the “One China” policy and recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.

Taiwan is mostly equipped with American-made weapons, but it purchased six Lafayette frigates from France in 1991, sparking China's anger. In 1992, France also sold Taiwan 60 Mirage fighter jets.

Last month, Taiwan said it was planning to purchase equipment from France to upgrade the ships' missile interference system.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Wednesday expressed his country’s strong opposition to any arms sales to the island.

"We have already expressed our serious concern to France," he said at a daily news briefing in Beijing.

He added that China urges France to “abide by the One China principle and withdraw the arms sale plan to Taiwan to avoid harming Sino-French relations."

In response, Taiwan's Defense Ministry quoted the navy as saying that it is following related procurement regulations for the arms purchase to meet its "combat needs", and declined to comment further.

Commenting on China’s warning, France reiterated its adherence to the "One China" policy as agreed with Beijing in 1994.

"Within this context France respects the contractual commitments it made with Taiwan and has not changed its position since 1994," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Facing the COVID-19 crisis, all our attention and efforts should be focused on battling the pandemic," it added.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have particularly been strained since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power on the island in 2016. She has strong anti-China inclinations and rejects Chinese sovereignty.

Taiwan, backed by the United States which has long courted Taipei in an attempt to counter Beijing, has stepped up lobbying to be allowed to join this month’s World Health Assembly (WHA) as an “observer state” in a move condemned by China as a political stunt aimed at promoting Taiwan’s attempted independence.

China has pursued reunification with Taiwan ever since the island broke away from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.

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