French President Emmanuel Macron has defended his recent comments about Taiwan, in which he said France should not get caught up in an escalation between the US and China.
He made the comments in an interview over the weekend following his three-day state visit to China. He also said that being a US ally did not mean being a “vassal”.
His remarks have drawn criticism from politicians and other public figures on both sides of the Atlantic. But on Wednesday during a visit to the Netherlands he said he stood by the comments.
“Being an ally does not mean being a vassal… doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to think for ourselves,” Mr Macron said at a press conference in the Netherlands during his two-day visit.
The French president also said that nothing had changed in France’s support for the “status quo” in Taiwan and that Paris “supports the One China policy and the search for a peaceful resolution to the situation”.
Former US president Donald Trump has accused Mr Macron of cosying up to China – but the French leader said he would not respond to those comments.
Meanwhile the White House has played down the remarks, saying that the Biden administration remains “comfortable and confident in the terrific bilateral relationship we have with France”.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry has taken a similar stance, but has said it “noted” Mr Macron’s comments. A senior Taiwanese official, however, said the remarks left him “puzzled”.
“Are ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ out of fashion?” wrote parliament speaker You Si-kun on social media, referring to France’s motto of “liberty, equality, fraternity”.
“Is it OK just to ignore this once it’s part of the constitution? Or can advanced democratic countries ignore the lives and deaths of people in other countries?”
Some analysts say that Mr Macron’s comments suggest that the US is to blame as much as China for the rising tensions over Taiwan, and make it harder for the EU to take a harder line with Beijing.
China meanwhile has praised Mr Macron’s remarks and said it wasn’t surprised at the criticism.
“Some countries do not want to see other nations become independent and self-reliant, and instead always want to coerce other countries into obeying their will,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
Self-ruled Taiwan sees itself as distinct from the Chinese mainland, with its own constitution and democratically-elected leaders. But Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will eventually be under its control and has never renounced the use of force as a means to do this.
While the US diplomatically acknowledges China’s position that there is only one Chinese government, President Joe Biden has vowed to intervene militarily to protect Taiwan if it is attacked.
President Tsai said on Saturday that her government would continue working with the US and other democracies as the island faced “continued authoritarian expansionism” from China.