France, Taiwan Meet Despite China Warning That Talks Will Damage Relationship With French

A group of French senators arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday for a five-day visit, even as China warned the trip will damage its relationship with France, the Associated Press reported.

Ahead of the trip, China attempted to discourage the senators from visiting. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a September 30 news conference that Beijing was opposed to relations between France and Taiwan.

"China firmly opposes all forms of official contact and exchanges between certain French congressmen and the Taiwan authorities," Hua said.

The Chinese Embassy in France warned that talks between France and Taiwan would not only damage China's core interests and undermine Chinese-French relations but also hurt France's own "reputation and interests," the AP said.

The embassy also asked the French delegates to "think twice" about the visit and asserted the one-China principle, where China claims governance over Taiwan.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

France-Taiwan Delegation
A group of French senators traveled to Taiwan this week for a five-day visit. Above, the French delegation arrives at the international airport in Taoyuan on Wednesday. CNA Pool/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the senators arrived in Taiwan following a large Chinese show of force with fighter jets near the self-ruled island.

The group, led by Senator Alain Richard, will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwanese economic and health officials and the Mainland Affairs Council. Richard, a former French defense minister, previously visited Taiwan in 2015 and 2018, according to Taiwan's semi-official Central News Agency, and heads the Taiwan Friendship group in the French Senate.

The visit is part of normal and regular parliamentary exchanges between France and Taiwan, which were not politicized in the past, said Mathieu Duchatel, director of the Asia Program at the Institut Montaigne in Paris.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and opposes any international engagement with the island such as visits by foreign government officials. It also has aggressively poached Taiwan's remaining diplomatic allies.

In its most recent display of sustained military harassment, China flew fighter jets 149 times toward Taiwan over four days from Friday to Monday. The White House called the flights risky and destabilizing, while China responded that the U.S. selling weapons to Taiwan and its ships navigating the Taiwan Strait were provocative.

Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told legislators Wednesday that the situation "is the most severe in the 40 years since I've enlisted." Chiu was answering questions as the legislature decides whether to approve a special budget for air and naval defense purchases.

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949. Today, they have extensive trade and investment ties but no official relations, and China has increasingly mobilized military, diplomatic and economic pressure to undermine Tsai's independence-leaning administration.

France-Taiwan Relations
French Senator Alain Richard bumps elbows with a Taiwanese official upon arrival at Taoyuan International Airport on Wednesday. Central News Agency/Pool Photo via AP