A delegation of French senators arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday for talks with top officials in Taipei.

Their five-day visit comes despite strong protest from Beijing, which considers self-governed Taiwan as Chinese territory.

Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have also been rising in recent days with increased Chinese military activity in Taiwan’s air defense zone.

“The senators are making the visit despite threats from the Chinese ambassador to France, showing their steadfast commitment to the spirit of freedom and democracy,” Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The delegation will meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday, according to the ministry.

Why is China protesting the visit?

China opposes Taiwan having any international engagement or official diplomatic exchanges and has tried to dissuade politicians from visiting in recent years.

In February, China’s ambassador to France wrote to the leader of the French delegation, Alain Richard, urging him to cancel the visit.

Beijing then said the trip would “clearly violate the one-China principle and send the wrong signal to pro-independence forces in Taiwan.”

In more recent comments, the Chinese embassy also warned that the trip would damage the interests of China, Chinese-French relations, and “the image of France.”

The French Foreign Ministry dismissed Beijing’s protests, saying the senators were free to make their own decisions about their travel plans.

‘Most severe’ tension in decades

Taipei has accused Beijing of destabilizing the region after China flew nearly 150 fighter jets toward Taiwan over four days.

The United States condemned the Chinese air incursions and called them risky and destabilizing. In response, China said U.S. ships navigating the Taiwan Strait and Washington selling weapons to Taipei were provocative.

Taiwan’s legislature on Wednesday was mulling a special budget for air defense. Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told legislators that the situation “is the most severe in the 40 years since I've enlisted.”

This article was originally published on Deutsche Welle. Read the original article here.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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