China said on Thursday April 25th that its navy warned off a French warship that had entered the Taiwan Strait earlier this month and has lodged an official protest over the rare move by a European power, AFP has reported.
Beijing, which considers self-governed and democratic Taiwan as its territory, has traditionally been challenged by the United States that insists on sailing through the strait. But this time it is France that has angered China.
Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said the French warship "illegally entered China's territorial waters" on April 7th.
"The Chinese military sent warships in accordance with the law, in order to identify the French ship, and warn it to sail away," Ren said.
"The Chinese military is always on high alert and firmly defends the sovereignty and security of the country," he added.
Meanwhile, Paris reaffirmed its commitment to "freedom of navigation under maritime law" following the spat with Beijing.
"The (French) national navy crosses the Taiwan Strait about once a year, without any incident nor reaction," an aide to French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said after China confirmed lodging an official protest.
US warships periodically conduct "freedom of navigation" exercises in the narrow waterway separating the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, triggering angry responses from Beijing every time.