To contain an assertive China, France said on Friday that it would be sending its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the Indian Ocean next year to defend freedom of navigation in the region, reports AFP.
Charles de Gaulle is the flagship of the French Navy and carries between 28 and 40 aircraft including the Dassault Rafale M multirole fighter aircraft.
The aircraft carrier, which at present is undergoing renovation at Toulon in southern France, will be ready to patrol disputed waters in the South China Sea, AFP quoted French Defence Minister Florence Parly as saying.
Speaking to La Provence newspaper, Parly said that France has always stood at the forefront of defending the inalienable right of freedom of navigation in international waters.
She added that whenever there is an infringement of this fundamental principle of international law, which is happening at present in the South China Sea, France will respond by exercising the freedom to sail in such disputed waters.
In May this year, a French navy Mistral-class helicopter carrier sailed through the South China Sea while in August, French Air Force aircraft flew over the region.
Even French President Emmanuel Macron on a visit to Australia in May asserted that no country will be allowed to infringe on rights of others in the region.
Macron said France, Australia and India had the joint responsibility to protect the region from “hegemony” – a reference to China’s growing military might.
France has a number of island territories in the Pacific Ocean.