The deployment of France's only aircraft carrier group to the region demonstrates its commitment to regional security, French Ambassador to Singapore Marc Abensour said yesterday.
"France is also a security provider in the region, and that is well-illustrated through our shared commitment to freedom of navigation and of overflight," he added.
He said the shared commitment was the reason that the aircraft carrier group will carry out exercises with Singapore's navy and air force next week, enhancing the way that the two countries' armed forces work together.
The ambassador was speaking to reporters on board the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which arrived in Singapore yesterday at RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base.
Its deployment, code-named Mission Clemenceau, started in March as part of the carrier strike group Task Force 473. The five-month mission, which will end in July, covers areas like the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.
The group includes three frigates, one supply ship and one nuclear submarine, as well as helicopters and Rafale fighter jets.
Asked if the French navy will conduct freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, Rear-Admiral Olivier Lebas, Commander of Task Force 473, said conducting such operations was not its objective. "It's just the way we have to operate and to meet our partners everywhere in the world (by using freedom of navigation). We are neighbouring this region and so it's important to meet our partners regularly here," he said.
It's just the way we have to operate and to meet our partners everywhere in the world (by using freedom of navigation). We are neighbouring this region and so it's important to meet our partners regularly here.
MR MARC ABENSOUR, French Ambassador to Singapore, on whether the navy will conduct freedom of navigation operations.
Tensions have flared in the disputed South China Sea over the United States' freedom of navigation operations and China's territorial claims.
The Charles de Gaulle will stay for the annual Asia defence forum, the Shangri-La Dialogue, which runs from Friday to Sunday.
The ship, manned by about 1,950 sailors, was last here in 2002.
Describing the defence ties between France and Singapore as having achieved a high level of mutual trust, Mr Abensour said that it was a pillar of the two countries' strategic partnership, which began in 2013.
He added that other than celebrating the role of former French prime minister Georges Clemenceau in World War I, the name of the mission also has links to Singapore.
"Clemenceau visited Singapore almost a century ago in 1920. And he was invited to give his name to Singapore. And so this is why you have this name here (as Clemenceau Avenue)," he said.