South China Sea tensions ERUPT: French warship enters disputed waters in threat to Beijing

Officials claimed the vessel was embarking on the rare voyage, which is welcomed by Washington but is likely to anger Beijing. The French ship’s presence in the international waterway close to China shows US allies are asserting their navigational freedom. The waters are part of the hotly disputed South China Sea.

Some believe this will see other allies like Japan and Australia following suit.

Abraham Denmark, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, said it was vital other countries operated in the water.

He added: “This is an important development both because of the transit itself but also because it reflects a more geopolitical approach by France towards China and the broader Asia Pacific.

“It is important to have other countries operating in Asia to demonstrate that this is just not a matter of competition between Washington and Beijing, that what China has been doing represents a broader challenge to a liberal international order.”

France’s presence in the controversial Strait will further strain ties between the US and China.

Both nations are rowing over Taiwan, which has become another stumbling block in improving their relations.

Reports suggest two officials saw the military ship in the waterway between China and Taiwan on April 6.

One said it was the French frigate Vendemiaire.

That vessel was shadowed by the Chinese.

As a result of the ship’s passage, China has now barred France from a naval parade, which would mark the 70 years since the founding of China’s Navy.

Tensions in the South China Sea have risen in the past year as the US tries to push back China’s hold on the region.

The waters are the world’s busiest trade route is also claimed by the likes of Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei.

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