TAIPEI, Oct. 7 (Reuters) – Taiwan will continue to play its role as a member of the international community and to ensure regional peace and stability, President Tsai Ing-wen told a delegation of French senators visiting a meeting on Thursday. context of escalating tensions with China.
The four senators, led by former defense minister Alain Richard, arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday despite strong objections from China, which considers the island its own territory and is still irritated by visits from foreign officials.
The senators’ visit comes after four consecutive days, starting last Friday, of massive Chinese Air Force missions to Taiwan’s air defense zone – measures that have raised concern in the United States and of their allies.
Addressing senators at the presidential office, Tsai thanked France for its concern over the situation in the Taiwan Strait and its support for its international participation.
“We will continue to assume 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 with France,” she added.
Richard, head of the Taiwanese Friendship Group of the French Senate, was French Minister of Defense from 1997 to 2002 under President Jacques Chirac. Richard has already visited Taiwan twice, in 2015 and 2018.
Tsai said Taiwan was “very moved”. Richard decided to come, despite what she called “pressure” – a reference to China.
In March, the Chinese embassy in Paris warned of lawmakers meeting with Taiwanese officials, prompting a rebuff from the French foreign ministry at the time. Read more
“The French legislator decides in complete independence on his travel plans and his contacts, by virtue of the principle of the separation of powers,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Tsai did not directly mention recent activities by the Chinese Air Force.
Senators aren’t the only high-ranking foreign visitors to Taiwan at the moment.
Later Thursday, Tsai will meet with former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Neither France nor Australia have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, like most countries.
Taiwan has been keen to strengthen ties with other democracies as China ramps up its lobbying campaign, trying to force the island to accept Chinese sovereignty.
The Taiwanese government has denounced the measures taken by China and said it will stand up for the island’s freedom and democracy and that only the Taiwanese people can decide their future.
Report by Ben Blanchard Editing by Mark Heinrich
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