TAIPEI, Oct.7 (Reuters) – Taiwan will ensure regional peace and stability and seek to work with other like-minded democracies, President Tsai Ing-wen told senior French and Australian officials on Thursday days after a dramatic surge in tensions with China.
The trips of four French senators and former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott come after four consecutive days, starting last Friday, of massive Chinese Air Force incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone, measures that have caused concern in Washington and its allies.
Democratically ruled Taiwan has sought support from other democracies, particularly the United States and its allies, amid mounting military and political pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory.
Addressing the presidential office to French senators, headed by former defense minister Alain Richard, 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 referred to Taiwan’s “essential contribution to the important area of human progress” but did not mention rising military tensions with China in remarks broadcast live on the presidential office’s Facebook page.
Tsai conveyed a similar message in subsequent remarks to Abbott, who told him he was in Taiwan to help end his international isolation, praising his democracy and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more
“Of course, not everyone and not everywhere is happy with Taiwan’s progress, and I note that Taiwan is challenged almost daily by its giant neighbor,” Abbott said.
French senators arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday, despite strong objections from China, which is still irritated by visits from foreign officials.
Richard, head of the Taiwanese Friendship Group of the French Senate, was the country’s defense minister from 1997 to 2002 under President Jacques Chirac.
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 against parliamentarians meeting with Taiwanese officials, prompting a rebuff from the French Foreign Ministry, which said French senators are free to meet whoever they want when traveling. .
Tsai did not directly mention recent activities by the Chinese Air Force in public comments during his meetings with Senators or Abbott.
Neither France nor Australia have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, like most countries.
Separately, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said it would pay close attention to a planned summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the US being Taiwan’s biggest backer.
“We will continue to coordinate closely with the United States in Taipei and Washington to ensure that US policy towards Taiwan remains unchanged,” ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said.
The government of Taiwan has denounced the measures taken by China against it and said it will stand up for the island’s freedom and democracy and that only the people of Taiwan can decide their future.
Report by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast
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