A delegation from the European Parliament arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday, as part of an effort to strengthen ties with the island despite warnings from China.
The visit comes as strong tensions exist between Taiwan and China, which claims the autonomous island and has pledged to take it one day, by force if necessary.
Beijing has stepped up efforts in recent years to isolate Taiwan on the international stage, bristling with any attempt to treat the island as an independent state.
The seven-member group led by French MEP Raphael Glucksmann will meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other senior officials during the three-day trip, the island’s foreign ministry said, describing it. as the first “official” delegation of the European Parliament. .
“We look forward to fruitful discussions on the defense of democracy, freedom, the rule of law and respect for human rights with our like-minded European partners,” he added in a statement.
Glucksmann, a vocal critic of China, was among five lawmakers sanctioned by Beijing in March.
“Neither the threats nor the sanctions will impress me. Never. And I will continue, always, to be at the side of those who fight for democracy and human rights. So here it is: I am going to Taiwan”, a he tweeted.
The Chinese mission in Brussels had earlier warned that a visit to Taiwan by MEPs “would harm China’s fundamental interests and undermine the healthy development of China-EU relations.”
Beijing reacted angrily when a group of French senators visited Taiwan last month and during recent visits by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu to Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Sino-Taiwanese relations have collapsed since Tsai’s election as president in 2016, as she views the island as a de facto sovereign nation and not part of “One China.”
And after record-breaking Chinese warplane incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone, the island’s defense minister said military tensions with Beijing were at their highest in four decades.