Stepping up its presence in the South China Sea, France has planned two voyages through the disputed waters.
According to South China Morning Post, the French Navy said an amphibious assault ship the Tonnere and the frigate Surcouf had left their home port Toulon on Thursday and would travel to the Pacific on a three-month mission.
The website Naval News reported that the ships would cross the South China Sea twice and take part in a combined exercise with the Japanese and US militaries in May.
Capt Arnaud Tranchant, commanding officer of the Tonnerre, told Naval News that the French navy would “work to strengthen” France’s partnership with the US, Japan, India and Australia – Quad.
When asked whether he was planning to transit the Taiwan Strait, he said he has “not yet traced our roads in this area”.
Similar missions in 2015 and 2017 also saw French navy vessels sailing through the South China Sea, but analysts said the latest exercise is a sign of France stepping up engagement in the Indo Pacific region.
Last week, France deployed a nuclear attack submarine in the South China Sea, in line with US President Joe Biden’s call to mount a multilateral challenge to China.