President Emmanuel Macron said France’s position on Taiwan had not changed and that he was in favor of the current «status quo» regarding the island, after being asked to clarify comments that sparked backlash in the United States and Europe.
Meanwhile, Germany’s foreign minister begins a visit to China on Thursday aimed at reaffirming a common European Union policy toward Beijing days after Macron’s comments suggested a mess in the continent’s approach to the superpower. rising.
In an interview with the Politico news outlet and the Les Echos newspaper, Macron had warned against being drawn into a crisis over Taiwan fueled by «American pacing and Chinese overreaction.»
That drew criticism from some politicians and commentators in Europe and the United States, with former President Donald Trump accusing him of «kissing Beijing’s ass.»
“The French and European position on Taiwan is the same. We are for the status quo. This policy is constant and has not changed,» Macron told a news conference during a state visit to the Netherlands.
“It is the one-China policy and a peaceful resolution of the situation. That is what I said in my one-on-one meeting with Xi Jinping, that is what was said everywhere, we have not changed,” he said.
Macron did not mention Taiwan in his public statement to the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last week, an omission criticized by commentators.
The French leader also said he shared a vision of an «open Indo-Pacific region» with President Joe Biden, even if each had their own approach to China.
“I can tell you that he wants to avoid any escalation despite the current tension,” Macron said.
Macron added that a French military ship had crossed the Taiwan Strait in recent days despite Chinese military exercises around the island and demonstrated France’s strong commitment to the region.
China has never renounced the use of force to control the democratically governed island.
«So no, France does not support provocations, does not engage in fantasy politics and considers the status quo, respect and clarity to be the best allies for European strategic autonomy,» Macron said.
He said Trump’s comments were an example of the escalation sought by some. A French diplomat told reporters earlier that Macron did not want to get caught up in the US Congressional Republican leadership’s strategy of «tension» over Taiwan.
The meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California last week, ahead of the China drills, was a «provocation,» the diplomat said.
The Dutch prime minister, who hosted Macron for a two-day state visit, said he had a very successful meeting with Macron and did not distance himself from his guest’s comments, but reaffirmed his belief in the Western alliance.
«Our strong transatlantic relationship exists for very good reasons, the United States is an essential partner for our freedom and security,» said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
“But at the same time, we agree that an open and strategically autonomous Europe should be able to develop those relationships with other parts of the world as well. Being a player, and not the playing field, ”he added.
As a result of Macron’s comments, the stakes on German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s maiden voyage have risen, and many EU members hope Berlin will seize this opportunity to set a clear and united line. of the EU on China, analysts said.
«Now it’s very much about damage control… But the cloud of Macron’s visit is very big and it’s still not very clear how this balance will play out in the end,» Alicja Bachulska, China-EU relations researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Warsaw, he told Reuters.
Even without Macron’s comments, the trip would have been a delicate one for Baerbock, who has been more aggressive with China than Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz and is drafting a China policy aimed at reducing Germany’s economic dependence on Beijing.
Speaking ahead of his visit, Baerbock said top of his agenda would be to remind China of its responsibility to influence Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine and underscore a common European conviction that a unilateral change in the status quo in the Taiwan Strait would be unacceptable. .
The foreign minister will meet her counterpart Qin Gang and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on the two-day trip.