TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne was the first foreign minister in the European Union to express support for Taiwan in its dispute with China over flight routes, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday (Feb. 8).
Beijing announced it was altering the routes over the Taiwan Strait from Feb. 1 without consulting Taiwan. The new M503 route would take planes up to 4.2 nautical miles (7.8 kilometers) from the median line in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan expressed concern about the changes, as they might affect the safety of airline passengers traveling in the area. Since China showed no inclination to reverse its decision, the Tourism Administration said Wednesday (Feb. 7) it was halting the organization of Taiwanese tour groups to visit China from June 1.
During a question-and-answer session in the Senate on Wednesday, Sejourne said France opposed any unilateral changes to the status quo as well as any threats and military force to achieve change. France valued the freedom of navigation and overflight, while the minister also reiterated his support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.
In a statement, MOFA pointed out that France had repeatedly stated the importance of cross-strait peace and stability, and backed up its resolve by sending military vessels to sail through the Taiwan Strait. In August, President Emmanuel Macron mentioned the importance of free navigation in the strait in a law for the first time when he approved France’s seven-year military program.