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Macron insists won’t be US ‘vassal’ on Taiwan

Macron says IS branch behind Russia attack, also targeted France
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French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday stood by his controversial comments on Taiwan , saying that being a US ally did not mean being a “vassal”.

Macron — wrapping up a state visit to the Netherlands during which he has also faced protests over pension reforms — said France still backed the “status quo” on Taiwan.

But the French president appeared to stick by remarks in an interview at the weekend, in which he said Europe should not be a “follower” of either Washington or Beijing or get caught up in any escalation.

“Being an ally does not mean being a vassal… doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to think for ourselves,” Macron told a press conference in Amsterdam with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Macron, who visited China last week, said that French and European policy on Taiwan “has not changed” despite the furore over his remarks in an interview with Politico and Les Echos in which he backed Europe’s strategic autonomy.

“France is for the status quo in Taiwan,” he said, adding that Paris “supports the One China policy and the search for a peaceful resolution to the situation.”

– ‘Honour of the workers’ –

Macron’s weekend interview drew praise as “brilliant” in China — which rejects US support of what it sees as a breakaway province — but raised eyebrows among Western allies.

Former US president Donald Trump said meanwhile that “Macron, who’s a friend of mine, is over with China, kissing his ass”.

Macron however refused to rise to the bait, saying that he had “nothing to say about the comments by former president Trump because he is taking part in this escalation”.

The pomp of the first state visit to the Netherlands by a French president in 23 years has not stopped Macron from facing pressure on a series of both domestic and foreign issues.

Dutch police detained two demonstrators who ran towards him outside Amsterdam university in an apparent protest against France increasing the pension age from 62 to 64.

“For the honour of the workers and a better world — even if Macron doesn’t like it, we are here,” one protester chanted, using the words of a French protest song, as he was pinned down by several security officials in Amsterdam.

Police arrested one male and one female protester “for running towards the president, for disturbing public order and threatening,” Amsterdam police spokesperson Lex van Liebergen told AFP.

Around 40 people protested when Macron left the university’s science faculty, in an event to promote the signing of a “pact for innovation” between France and the Netherlands.

– ‘Accept controversy’ –

Macron later said reforms inevitably caused protests, citing recent rallies by Dutch farmers against environmental plans.

“We must sometimes accept controversy, and we must try to build a path for the future,” he told an audience of French people living in the Netherlands.

The arrests came a day after protesters heckled Macron during a speech on European sovereignty in The Hague on Tuesday.

The demonstrators had shouted “Where is French democracy?” and unfurled a banner saying “President of Violence and Hypocrisy”.

Macron’s state visit was meant to promote the renewed closeness of the two countries since Brexit, when the Netherlands lost a key EU ally with Britain’s departure.

It also featured a trip to an exhibition of works by painter Johannes Vermeer at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and talks with Rutte on a canal boat.

Earlier, Macron’s wife Brigitte and Dutch Queen Maxima toured the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, where the tragic teenage Jewish diarist hid from the Nazis during World War II.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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