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A delegation from the French Senate, led by former Minister of Defence Alain Richard, is to leave for Taiwan on October 4. The week-long visit comes after Chinese fighter jets staged their largest ever incursion into Taiwanese air space.
Senator Alain Richard is expected to lead the French Senate Group for Exchange and Studies with Taiwan from October 4 to 11.
Beijing repeatedly objected to the trip and the Chinese ambassador to France said that it would “needlessly disrupt” relations between their countries.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a regular press conference on 30 September that Beijing was “firmly opposed” to any official exchanges or contact between individual French senators and the authorities in Taiwan, a democratically-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.
The English language mouthpiece of China's Communist Party Global Times called the trip a "silly move" at a time when France "has just been stabbed in the back by the US with its AUKUS deal which sabotaged the submarine contract between France and Australia."
The Chinese embassy in France last week asked the French senators to "think twice" and “reconsider” their decision, warning that the move would harm China’s “core interests” with Taiwan and undermine relations between Beijing and Paris.
According to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Taiwan’s foreign ministry has said it “enthusiastically” welcomed the delegation, and France’s foreign ministry has said it would not interfere in the planned trip.
The French Senate caused another uproar in Beijing after it proposed a resolution "urging Taiwan's meaningful participation" in UN bodies such as the World Health Assembly, the UN's Panel for Climate Change, Interpol and the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The French senators' visit is taking place days after Beijing's People’s Liberation Army flew 38 fighter jets into Taiwan's air space. The manouvres coincided with China's National Day on 1 October. On Saturday, a record 39 fighter jets entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone.
Taiwan deployed air patrol forces in response and tracked the Chinese aircraft on its air defense systems, the island’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
China has sent planes toward the island it claims as part of its territory on a near daily basis in the last couple of years, stepping up military harassment with drills.
Last week, China flew 24 fighter jets toward Taiwan after it announced it would apply to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which China also applied to join.
Taiwan and China split during a civil war in 1949, and China has not ruled out force to reunify with Taiwan. Beijing opposes Taiwan’s involvement in international organizations.