MELBOURNE, Australia — France’s armed forces minister has pledged the country will remain committed to the Pacific region, as she warned of a “global confrontation” emerging there.
Speaking on Sunday at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, Florence Parly reminded her audience that France has a stake in the region — 1.6 million inhabitants, several island territories in the Indian and south Pacific oceans, and a vast exclusive economic zone from these possessions.
As such, the evolving regional security order directly affects France, with Parly observing that “it takes no Kissinger to see the building blocks of a global confrontation taking place here in Asia.”
She said her country will remain engaged in the region “in our own steady, nonconfrontational but obstinate way,” and that French Navy ships will continue to sail through the South China Sea more than twice a year and will not be intimidated into accepting any fait accompli despite “objections and dubious maneuvers at sea.”
She also highlighted France’s contribution to efforts against nuclear proliferation as part of its plan to contribute to “strategic stability through multilateral action,” with its air and naval assets joining in the operation to monitor North Korean smuggling efforts that contravene United Nations sanctions.
To underscore the comment about France’s naval presence in the region, a carrier strike group centered around the country’s sole nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was making a port visit to Singapore to coincide Parly’s speech. The Charles de Gaulle, carrying 18 Rafale fighter jets in addition to airborne early warning aircraft and helicopters, was in a midst of a deployment that started in March and is scheduled to end in July.
Named Mission Clemenceau, the deployment saw the French jets take part in coalition operations in the Middle East against the Islamic State group. They also conducted exercises with several other countries in the region and beyond, including with the United States, India, Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. There are also planned interactions with other regional forces, such as Vietnam and Thailand.
Parly’s speech also coincided with the release of a report on Indo-Pacific security by the French Armed Forces Ministry. The report said the country is developing a network of strategic partnerships with nations in the Indo-Pacific region and “supports and wishes to contribute to the building of a regional security architecture” to deal with risks and tensions, including terrorism, challenges to multilateralism and growing polarization.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.