TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A French parliamentary delegation pledged its support for Taiwan during a meeting Thursday with the president of the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory with no right to diplomatic recognition.

Senator Joel Guerriau, vice chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Services Committee, told Tsai Ing-wen that he would “help Taiwan oppose its oppressors and promote the freedom of Taiwan”.

Tsai, who won a second term as president in 2020, stressed the close connection between Taiwan’s high-tech economy and European Union countries.

“We expect Taiwan and France to continue to deepen their cooperation in various fields,” Tsai said. France took over the Presidency of the Council of the EU in January.

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The visit is the third by French lawmakers to Taiwan in recent months and follows a meeting earlier this week between Tsai and a group of Slovak lawmakers who offered similar expressions of support for the island’s democracy.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said “China firmly opposes any form of official and political contacts between Taiwan and countries that have diplomatic relations with China.”

“We urge the relevant side to … avoid sending bad signals to Taiwan independence forces and take concrete measures to maintain the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations,” Zhao said at a daily press briefing.

Taiwan has drawn growing support from European nations in defiance of China, while current and retired US politicians have also traveled to the island to show support from Washington.

On Wednesday, the US State Department informed Congress that it had approved a possible $120 million sale of ship spare parts to Taiwan. China firmly opposes such sales.

French senators Vincent Eble, Sylvie Goy-Chavent, Dany Wattebled and Ludovic Haye accompanied Guerriau on the six-day visit.

In February, the European Commission unveiled the EU Chip Act aimed at allowing the EU to work more closely with Taiwan and other world leaders in the semiconductor industry.

China regularly threatens retaliation against politicians and countries that support Taiwan, which has only informal relations with the United States, France and most other countries due to Chinese diplomatic pressure.

Beijing downgraded relations and blocked imports from Lithuania, a member of both the EU and NATO, after the Baltic nation broke diplomatic custom by accepting a Taiwanese representative office in its capital, Vilnius, would be called Taiwan instead of Chinese Taipei, which other countries use to avoid offending Beijing.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.

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