France challenges Beijing sea claims

China | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 13 Jun 2018

France is increasing its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, sending warships through the South China Sea and planning air exercises to help counter China's military build-up in disputed waters.

In late May, the French assault ship Dixmude and a frigate sailed through the disputed Spratly Islands and around a group of reefs that China has turned into islets, to push back against Beijing's claim to own most of the resource-rich South China Sea.

"Our patrol involved passing close to these islets to obtain intelligence with all the sensors it is possible to use in international waters," the Dixmude's commanding officer, Jean Porcher, told reporters.

Porcher said the ship maintained "cordial" radio contact with Chinese military vessels, "which were present in the area until we left."

So far, the United States has taken the lead in confronting China over its territorial claims in the region, but France has also waded into the dispute, sending its ships into the South China Sea three to five times a year.

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