Sunday, 21 Apr 2024

Macron Stands by Comments on Taiwan, but Says France Backs Status Quo

President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that France’s position toward Taiwan remained unchanged, but he stood by comments he made on the island’s security that dismayed some allies after he returned from a trip to China and insisted that Europe could not be a “vassal” of the United States.

“France’s position and the European position on Taiwan is the same,” Mr. Macron said at a news conference in Amsterdam on the second day of a state visit to the Netherlands. “We are for the status quo. This policy is constant and hasn’t changed.”

But he also said that he refused to take part in a “verbal escalation” over the island — a position he said was shared by President Biden, who he said had showed “a willingness to avoid any escalation despite the current tensions.”

Returning from a three-day tour in China, Mr. Macron drew sharp criticism from some Western allies and commentators after saying in an interview with Politico and Les Échos, a French newspaper, that it was not in Europe’s interest to “accelerate” on the issue of Taiwan, a self-governing island long claimed by China.

“The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction,” Mr. Macron said in the interview. He said European countries had to avoid becoming vassals and being dragged into a growing confrontation between the United States and China.

Mr. Macron has made Europe’s “strategic autonomy” one of the main thrusts of his foreign policy, and he has repeatedly insisted that Europe needs to work closely with the United States without being dependent on it.

“Being an ally does not mean being a vassal,” he said on Wednesday.

While the insistence on European autonomy is not new, some have questioned the timing of Mr. Macron’s comments.

They came as the United States was providing the vast bulk of military support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, and hours before China began threatening military drills around Taiwan in response to a meeting in California days earlier of the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and the speaker of the U.S. House, Representative Kevin McCarthy.

On Wednesday, Mr. Macron said he had coordinated with Mr. Biden ahead of his visit to China. He said that France and the United States shared the same view of an “open Indo-Pacific region” and the same views on Taiwan, including a commitment to the “One China” policy — a view that mainland China and Taiwan make up a single nation — and to resolving tensions over the island peacefully.

“That’s what I said one to one to the president; that’s what I’ve said everywhere,” Mr. Macron added, referring to Xi Jinping, China’s top leader. “We haven’t changed.”

But Mr. Macron said that “just because you are allied and do things together doesn’t mean that you don’t have the right to think for yourself and are going to follow those who have the hardest positions in a country that you are allied with.”

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