Call Taiwan a country, the French senator said, angering China

Alain Richard, head of the Taiwan Friendship Group of the French Senate and former French Minister of Defense, and other members of the French delegation attend a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan on October 8, 2021. REUTERS / Yimou Lee

TAIPEI, Oct. 8 (Reuters) – Taiwan should be considered a country, a senior French senator said on Friday during a visit to Taipei, doubling down on earlier comments that angered Beijing, which considers the island to be the l ‘one of its provinces, not a country.

The name of Taiwan is a delicate question.

Formally called the Republic of China, it is not recognized by most of the countries in the world, which have diplomatic relations with Beijing. Its de facto embassies generally use the name “Taipei” to describe the island, to ensure that host countries do not disturb China.

Meeting President Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday, former French Defense Minister Alain Richard said Taiwan’s representative office in Paris was doing “a very good job of representing your country.”

In Beijing, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said that calling Taiwan a country was a “flagrant violation of the universal consensus of the international community, including France.”

Spokesman Zhao Lijian added: “People like Richard lack the most basic respect and understanding of the norms of international relations, or they kidnap state-to-state relations on the basis of personal selfishness. .

“China strongly condemns and strongly opposes it.”

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Richard, who heads the Taiwanese Friendship Group of the French Senate, admitted that how to call Taiwanese representative offices was a tricky one.

“It’s a nice diplomatic question, but what strikes me is that the name of this island and this country is Taiwan,” he said in English.

“So there’s no point in trying, you know, to stop this country from using its name.”

He added in French that the word “country”, in French, means first of all a geographical space and not a political one.

The remarks come at a time when the international community is increasingly concerned about rising tensions between Taiwan and China after nearly 150 Chinese planes first flew over the air defense zone over a four-day period. since last Friday. Read more

Taiwan has lived under threat of a Chinese invasion since the defeated ROC government fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists. No peace or armistice treaty has ever been signed.

France only has official relations with Beijing, not Taipei, but maintains a relatively large de facto embassy on the island, staffed with diplomats.

Richard, who was French Minister of Defense from 1997 to 2002 under President Jacques Chirac, has already visited Taiwan twice.

He is accompanied by three other French senators on his visit, despite warnings against it this year by the Chinese Embassy in Paris after the trip was first raised.

Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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