France, China Mend Rift With End To Taiwan Arms Sales
BEIJING (AP) _ China and France said today they are patching up their yearlong rift with an agreement that French companies will be banned from any future arm sales to Taiwan.
In return, China will end its de facto ban on giving lucrative contracts to French companies. They lost millions of dollars in sales and a subway contract after France agreed to sell 60 Mirage fighter planes to Taiwan in late 1992.
The Mirage contract will be honored and spare parts will be delivered, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a news conference in Paris. But he said the French government will not allow future sales.
Taiwan, a Chinese island province, became the haven in 1949 of the Nationalist Chinese after they lost to the Communists in a civil war. They still claim to be the legitimate government of all China. France’s warplane sale was not part of any shift toward recognizing Taiwan’s claim, but rather appeared chiefly a commercial decision. The United States also announced in 1992 that it was selling fighter planes to Taiwan, and several other European countries were considering ship sales.
China has not taken strong action against the United States but has said it reserves the right to retaliate. In 1981, China downgraded relations with the Netherlands and sent its ambassador home after it sold Taiwan two submarines.
A joint Chinese-French statement announcing the agreement did not mention the Mirage sale. Carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, it said simply, ″In view of the concerns of the Chinese side, the French government has undertaken not to authorize any French enterprises to participate in the arming of Taiwan.″
The Mirage sale was approved by France’s former Socialist government. The conservatives who won power in French elections last March resisted Chinese appeals to cancel the sale, but showed their concern over the deteriorated relationship by sending a special envoy in December to hold secret talks with Chinese leaders.
The agreement announced today was a result of that visit, Xinhua said.
It spelled out France’s reward: ″The Chinese side welcomes participation by French enterprises in competition on the Chinese market on an equal footing.″