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French senator calls Taiwan a ‘country’ in visit China protests

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (R) greets French senator Alain Richard at the Presidential Office in Taipei

The head of a French delegation of senators on Thursday called Taiwan a “country” during a visit to Taipei, risking fury from China which has strongly protested against the trip.

Alain Richard, a former defence minister, arrived on Wednesday for a five-day visit despite repeated warnings from the Chinese embassy in Paris. 

France, like most countries, officially recognises China which claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory.

It has ramped up pressure on Tsai’s government since her 2016 election win and has aggressively tried to dissuade politicians from visiting in recent years.

Beijing’s ambassador wrote a letter to Richard in February, saying the visit would “clearly violate the one-China principle and send the wrong signal to pro-independence forces in Taiwan”.

“We are very moved that Senator Richard is undaunted by the pressure… to make his third visit to Taiwan,” Tsai said on Thursday.

Richard chairs the French senate’s Taiwan Friendship Group and visited the island in 2015 and 2018.

“Wolf warrior” is a label given to China’s more aggressive posturing under President Xi Jinping that has been embraced by many Chinese diplomats.

Taiwan’s defence minister said Wednesday that military tensions between the island and China are at their highest in four decades, after around 150 Chinese warplanes — a record number — made incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone in recent days.

Originally published as French senator calls Taiwan a ‘country’ in visit China protests

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