The head of a European Parliament delegation on Friday urged the international community to interact more with Taiwan to help defuse tensions with China, dismissing its claim that visiting the island was a provocation.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and vows to seize it one day, by force if necessary.
It bristles at any official foreign exchanges with the island and has slammed visits by overseas politicians as “provocations.”
Beijing on Thursday expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to what has been described as the first “official” delegation to Taipei from the European Parliament.
“It’s not a provocation to come to Taiwan. It should be normal,” French MEP Raphael Glucksmann told a press conference in Taipei.
He cautioned that isolation of the island would fuel tensions while “integration of Taiwan into our debate is actually defusing the deep concerns about security.”
Beijing has ramped up military and diplomatic pressure on the government of President Tsai Ing-wen since her election in 2016, as she views the island as a de facto sovereign nation and not part of a “one China.”
Taiwan’s defense minister warned that military tensions with Beijing were at their highest in four decades after record incursions by Chinese warplanes into the island’s air defense zone last month.
“We are really convinced that the more you have interactions between the international community and Taiwan, the less dangerous the situation will be in the (Taiwan) Strait,” said Glucksmann, who led the delegation.
Glucksmann, a vocal China critic who was among five lawmakers sanctioned by the country in March, said he was not afraid of Beijing’s moves.
“We won’t do anything to provoke any other power but we won’t do things because we are afraid about provocation letters or sanctions,” he added.
Beijing also reacted with anger when a group of French senators led by Alain Richard travelled to Taipei last month, despite warning letters sent by its ambassador to Paris.
Last year, China called a visit to Taiwan by the president of the Czech Senate, Milos Vystrcil, a “provocation” and vowed he would “pay a high price”.