A delegation from the French senate, led by former Minister of Defense Alain Richard, has traveled to Chinese Taipei and met with president Tsai Ing-wen, days after a dramatic spike in tensions between Beijing and Taipei.
The French delegation arrived on a five-day visit on Wednesday and also plans to meet Taipei’s economic and health officials as well as authorities from the mainland affairs council.
Tsai spoke briefly before her meeting with the French delegates, giving Richard the “Order of Propitious Clouds,” a distinction recognizing “his contributions to Taiwan-France relations.”
“We will continue to fulfill our responsibilities as members of the international community to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. We also hope to make more contributions to the world along with France,” she said in the meeting.
She thanked Richard for leading an effort in the French senate to pass a resolution in support of allowing Chinese Taipei to participate in international organizations like the World Health Organization.
In a speech after he was conferred the medal of honor, Richard said Chinese Taipei’s de facto embassy in Paris had been doing “a very good job in representing your country.”
Richard chairs the French senate’s Taiwan Friendship Group and had visited the island in 2015 and 2018.
Beijing has repeatedly objected to the latest trip, and the Chinese Embassy in France last week asked the French senators to “think twice” and “reconsider” their decision about the new visit, warning that the move would harm China’s “core interests” with Chinese Taipei and undermine relations between Beijing and Paris.
Tsai also met with former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was visiting the island to give a speech. Abbott spoke in a private capacity, but said he advocated for Chinese Taipei joining an 11-nation trade group that China has also applied to join.
“I can’t think of a stronger signal of democracies standing shoulder to shoulder with Taiwan than Taiwan’s accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” he said on Thursday. “And I do hope that your application will be welcomed by its existing members.”
The French senators’ visit is taking place days after Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army flew 38 fighter jets into Chinese Taipei’s self-designated air space. The maneuvers coincided with China’s National Day on October 1.
China has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, and under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. Beijing also opposes other countries pursuing ties with the self-ruled island and has consistently warned Washington and other countries against engaging with Taipei.
Even though the United States formally follows the One China policy, it has had direct relations with the self-proclaimed government in Chinese Taipei and has recently raised the level of its diplomatic contacts with it.
Chinese Taipei’s president favors independence and views the island as a “sovereign state,” rejecting the One China principle.
China has been recently holding more military drills near the self-ruled island, arguing that the policy is meant to “enhance its capability to safeguard national sovereignty, safety and development interests.”
Chinese Taipei, however, has repeatedly accused Beijing of carrying out “new incursions” into the island’s self-designated air defense identification zone, vowing to fight to the end in case of any attack by China.