Five French MPs to visit Taiwan in first major European delegation since explosive Pelosi trip

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Five French lawmakers will arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday, the first high-level European delegation to land on the island amid heightened tensions with China following US House speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit.

The cross-party delegation will stay on the island nation till 12 September, where they would meet vice president William Lai instead of president Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The delegation would be led by senator Cyril Pellevat, who serves as the vice president of the European Affairs committee.

Earlier in June, another French parliamentary delegation led by senator Joel Guerriau pledged to “help Taiwan oppose its oppressors and promote Taiwan’s freedom".

Taipei has been pushing to bolster diplomatic ties with like-minded democracies in the face of Beijing's growing aggression, as China considers the island to be a part of its national territory, even though Taiwan has been self-ruled since it split from the mainland in 1949.

These visits show that the world is concerned about the stability in Taiwan Strait, said Wu Chih-chung, Taiwan’s envoy to France.

The support from other democracies is "very important for the morale of Taiwan to resist the pressure from China, as well as the stability of the region, and for the interest of the world," he told FRANCE24.

China, which views Taiwan as a domestic issue, has been irked by the rising number of visits from foreign officials. In the later part of the year, German, British and Canadian lawmakers are also expected to visit the country.

A livid China responded to Ms Pelosi's visit last month by conducting military exercises around the island nation, which renewed the fear of war.

Firefighters and medical personnel carry dummy victims on stretchers during a drill in New Taipei (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Firefighters and medical personnel carry dummy victims on stretchers during a drill in New Taipei (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

So far in 2022, Chinese planes have made at least 1,100 incursions into Taiwan's airspace, according to AFP, in an act touted by the Taiwanese president as “grey zone” warfare provocations.

Ms Tsai on Tuesday said the combat skills of the Taiwanese military are now "more mature" and better as a result of having to repeatedly scramble to see off Chinese forces during their recent drills.

"In the face of challenges, our national military has calmly responded to the enemy's intents at intrusion and have tenaciously defended the country's security," she said, according to a transcript of the remarks released by the presidential office.

“I believe that after this period of combat readiness missions, our national military’s combat skills are more mature and its combat power is more powerful.”

Her remarks come just days after Taiwan, for the first time in history, shot down an unidentified civilian drone that entered its airspace near an islet near the Chinese city of Xiamen.

Taiwan on Monday claimed that a Chinese military drone, identified as BZK-007 vehicle, crossed into the southwest corner of the island’s air defence identification zone along with eight Chinese warplanes.

Beijing had previously dismissed Taiwan’s claims of “drone harassment” as “not worth fussing about”.