Macron visits Netherlands after Taiwan comments make waves

AMSTERDAM (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe.

The speech Tuesday afternoon at a theater in The Hague comes after Macron raised eyebrows with comments on Taiwan after his recent visit to China.

“The question we need to answer, as Europeans, is the following: Is it in our interest to accelerate (a crisis) on Taiwan? No,” Macron was quoted as saying in an interview published Sunday in French newspaper Les Echos and Politico Europe.

“The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”

The remarks raised questions about whether Macron’s views are in line with the European Union’s position and whether the bloc of 27 is able to become the “third superpower” that Macron says he hopes to build within “a few years.”

The interview was Friday, before China launched large-scale combat exercises around Taiwan that simulated sealing off the island in response to the Taiwanese president’s trip to the U.S. last week. Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Beijing last week for talks and urged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to “bring Russia to its senses” over its war in Ukraine.

He emphasized the concept of “strategic autonomy” for Europe which he has promoted for years. He warned of what he called the “trap” that would lead to the bloc “getting caught up in crises that are not ours.”

China and Taiwan split in 1949 after a civil war, and the government in Beijing says the island is obliged to rejoin the mainland, by force if necessary.

Macron’s trip to Amsterdam and The Hague is the first state visit by a French leader since Jacques Chirac 23 years ago and underscores the close links between the Netherlands and France and the two leaders.

After arriving in Amsterdam, Macron is scheduled to lay a wreath at the national monument near the royal palace in the historic heart of the city. He later travels to The Hague for a meeting with leaders of both houses of the Dutch parliament before delivering his speech.

In the evening, Macron and his wife Brigitte are attending a banquet in Amsterdam hosted by King Willem-Alexander.

On Wednesday, Macron visits a science park in Amsterdam and holds talks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte before visiting the blockbuster exhibition of paintings by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum.

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