French and US lawmakers to visit Taiwan this week

Sources said US Representative Stephanie Murphy was leading a delegation that would arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI - A delegation of five French lawmakers and another group from the United States Congress will visit Taiwan this week, in a show of support for the island amid rising tensions with China, officials and sources said.

The French delegation will be the first visit by high-level Europeans following a string of trips by US officials and lawmakers that have infuriated China.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary. Taiwan rejects that and says it will defend its freedoms and democracy.

Last month, Beijing carried out war games near the island after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

She was followed by several other US delegations, including lawmakers and the governor of the state of Arizona.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said the French delegation would arrive on Wednesday and stay until Monday. They would meet Vice-President William Lai rather than President Tsai Ing-wen, it said.

The cross-party delegation would be led by Senator Cyril Pellevat, the ministry said.

Sources familiar with the plans told Reuters that US Representative Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat, was leading a bipartisan House delegation that would arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday and stay until Friday.

The other members of the US delegation included Democrat Kaiali'i Kahele and Republicans Scott Franklin, Joe Wilson, Andy Barr, Darrell Issa, Claudia Tenney and Kat Cammack, the sources told Reuters.

Taiwan has been keen to bolster relations with like-minded democracies, especially as tension with China rises. Later this year, visits are also expected from German, British and Canadian legislators.

China views Taiwan as a purely domestic issue and bristles at visits by foreign officials or Members of Parliament.

Taiwan's democratically elected government says that as the People's Republic of China has never governed the island, has no right to claim it, and that Taiwan's future can only be decided by its 23 million people. REUTERS

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