Mumbai, April 26: France has followed in the U.S.’s footsteps and sent its warship through the Taiwan Strait in an effort to assert “freedom of navigation” in ‘international waters’. France sent its military vessel the Vendemiaire through the Taiwan Strait on April 6.
“The navy passes on average once a year in the Taiwan Strait without incident or reaction,” it said. “France reaffirms its attachment to the freedom of navigation in accordance with the law of the sea,” an aide to French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said.
However, China reacted strongly to France’s action and lodged an official protest as Beijing considers Taiwan, an island waiting re-unification with the motherland and hence calls the Taiwan Strait ‘domestic waters’. China said it had lodged "stern representations" with France for what it called an "illegal" passage. The Vendemiaire was shadowed by Chinese navy vessel during its transit. Read: U.S. Navy Warships Sail through Taiwan Strait amid Tensions with China
France’s action also got it dis-invited from China’s naval parade to mark the 70 years of the founding of China's Navy. The naval parade had ships from close to a dozen countries including India and Australia take part in the anniversary celebrations.
A report in the South China Morning Post cites a source close to the PLA Navy leadership said China felt the French warship’s journey into the strait was “obviously instigated” by the United States. “Such a passage embarrassed Beijing. So, we advised them [the Marine Nationale] not to send the warship to the parade, though a delegation would still be welcomed,” the source said.
The U.S. has carried out multiple “freedom of navigation” operations in waters contested by China, such as in the South China Sea. The U.S. too had sent its vessel through the Taiwan Strait in October 2018 which was condemned by China. The increased frequency of the patrols conducted by the US Navy in areas that Beijing has laid claim to, has increased military tensions between the two countries.