Taiwan protests Sino-French military exercise

17th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

TAIPEI, March 17 (AFP) - Taiwan has made an official protest to France over a joint naval exercise held with the island's bitter rival China days before its presidential election, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

TAIPEI, March 17 (AFP) - Taiwan has made an official protest to France over a joint naval exercise held with the island's bitter rival China days before its presidential election, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Taiwan said the joint naval maneuver, four days before Saturday's presidential election, was part of Beijing's attempts to influence the election by threatening the island.

Taiwan had made its "serious concerns" known to France's representative in Taipei and "demanded the French government provide an explanation," foreign ministry spokesman Richard Shih told AFP.

Paris does not recognize Taiwan which Beijing regards as part of its territory waiting to be reunified by force if necessary.

The foreign ministry said it was "deeply regrettable" that France "cooperated with China at this sensitive moment ahead of the presidential elections to hold their largest and most complicated ever joint naval drills."

President Chen Shui-bian on Tuesday fiercely criticised France for staging the joint naval exercises with China.

Chen, who is fighting a close-run battle for a second four-year term, told thousands of supporters at a campaign rally in the capital Taipei that France was "willing to be used" by China.

"When we are holding the presidential election, China is holding its biggest-ever naval exercises with France," said Chen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The rift followed an earlier row after French President Jacques Chirac claimed the referendum called by Chen alongside Saturday's presidential polls was "dangerous" and "irresponsible" during a visit to Paris by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The referendum will ask voters to support government plans to build up its military defences and to push for peace talks with China.

Outspoken Taiwan Vice President Annette Lu said Chirac's remarks were "shameful" and designed only to get "huge business contracts".

Taipei was also irritated by France's push for the lifting of an arms embargo slapped on Beijing by the European Union since 1989 when tanks of the People's Liberation Army crushed pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

"If China obtained weapons from the EU, it would not help stabilize the situation in the region," said Chiou I-jen, Chen's chief of staff.

Kuomintang (KMT) leader Lien Chan, Chen's sole opponent in Saturday's presidential battle, told a news conference on Wednesday that he hoped China would adopt a "hands off policy" during Taiwan's election.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

 

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