Beijing claims French warship 'illegally entered China's territorial waters' when transiting Taiwan Strait

Beijing describes French warship's passage through Taiwan Strait as entering 'China's territorial waters'

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French frigate Vendemiaire.

French frigate Vendemiaire. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- China on Thursday (April 25) claimed that it warned off a French warship as it passed through the Taiwan Strait earlier this month, and said that the ship had "illegally entered China's territorial waters."

On Thursday, news broke that France was unceremoniously uninvited from taking part in a naval parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the PLA Navy, after a French warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait earlier this month. In response to the reports, China's Defence Ministry said that the French frigate had "illegally entered China's territorial waters" on April 7.

At a monthly press briefing, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said, "The Chinese military sent warships in accordance with the law, in order to identify the French ship, and warn it to sail away." He said that China had already "made solemn representations to the French side" about the incident.

Ren added that "The Chinese military is always on high alert and firmly defends the sovereignty and security of the country."

The French vessel in question has been identified as frigate Vendemiaire (F734) and had been originally slated to attend the 70th anniversary of China's navy earlier this week, but France was reportedly snubbed from the event after the incident in the strait.

Although Communist China has long made claims to Taiwan as its "territory," the Taiwan Strait is a considered an international waterway and its reference to the body of water as its "territory" is a new escalation in its aggressive stance in the region. China's claims to the strait follow a pattern of claiming international waters in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and the islands they contain.

The U.S. officials did not choose to speculate on the purpose of the French ship's voyage through the Taiwan Strait. When questioned by Reuters, Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉) said it is "a necessity" that ships from all countries can pass through the busy waters of the Taiwan Strait and that Taiwan would continue to monitor foreign vessels passing through the strait.

Abraham Denmark, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, told the news service that the news of the passage of the French warship was "an important development both because of the transit itself but also because it reflects a more geopolitical approach by France towards China and the broader Asia Pacific." Denmark said that the news is a sign that the U.S. is not alone in viewing China from both the standpoint of trade and from a military perspective.