China warns France against selling weapons to Taiwan

China warned France on Wednesday not to “damage Sino-French relations” by selling arms to Taiwan, which plans to purchase weapons as part of a warship fleet upgrade made in France bought 30 years ago.

China says that Taiwan is part of a “single China” and that this principle must be accepted by any country with which it has diplomatic relations. Arms sales to Taiwan are still very sensitive and regularly provoke a strong reaction from Beijing.

Taiwan is mainly equipped with weapons of American manufacture, but in 1991, France sold to Taiwan six frigates Lafayette, to the anger of China. France also sold 60 Mirage fighter jets to Taiwan in 1992.

Since then, China has greatly expanded its economic and military capabilities, and has become more assertive in its efforts to thwart these sales.

Last month, Taiwan said it was looking to buy equipment from France to improve the ship’s missile interference system.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China is resolutely opposed to any arms sales to Taiwan.

“We have already expressed our grave concern to France,” he said during a daily press briefing.

“We again urge the French side to respect the principle of one China and withdraw the arms sales plan to Taiwan to avoid damaging Sino-French relations,” added the spokesman.

Focus on Covid-19, according to France

France has rejected Chinese criticism of the planned arms deal with Taiwan, saying everyone should focus on fighting the coronavirus epidemic now.

“France strictly respects the contractual agreements it has concluded with Taiwan and nothing has changed in its position since 1994,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, referring to a 1994 agreement restoring links with Beijing.

“In the face of the Covid-19 crisis, all our attention and all our efforts should be focused on the fight against the pandemic,” added the ministry.

Taiwan says it needs to modernize its military to deal with the growing threat from China, which has stepped up its military exercises in recent months near the democratic and autonomous island.

China describes Taiwan as its most sensitive and important territorial issue, and has never given up on the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan has shown no interest in being ruled by autocratic China.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)