MARSEILLE (AFP) - France said on Friday (Oct 19) it would send its aircraft carrier to the Indian Ocean next year, to defend freedom of navigation at a time of growing Chinese assertiveness in disputed waters.
The Charles de Gaulle, currently in the southern French port of Toulon undergoing renovation, should be ready to sail to the Indian Ocean early next year, Defence Minister Florence Parly said.
France "has always stood in the front line in defence of the inalienable right of freedom of navigation in international waters," Parly told La Provence newspaper.
"Whenever there are infringements of this fundamental principal of international law, as is currently the case in southern China, we shall make a show of our freedom to act and sail in such waters," she added.
In May, the French helicopter-carrier Dixmude cruised the South China Sea, while a French air squadron flew over the region in August.
Also in May, French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking on a trip to Australia, said no country could be allowed to dominate the region.
France, Australia and India had a responsibility to protect the region from "hegemony" - a veiled reference to Beijing's growing might, he said.