Bastille Day message: Paris must ‘re-arm in Pacific’, says commander

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Matteo, a young Mā'ohi soldier from Tahiti, preparing for the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris.
Matteo, a young Mā'ohi soldier from Tahiti, preparing for yesterday's Bastille Day parade in Paris. About 600 Tahitian men and women a year join the French military forces. Image: Tahiti-Infos

RNZ Pacific

A senior French military commander says France should re-arm in the Pacific and consider restoring its forces to a level of 30 years ago.

Rear Admiral Jean-Mathieu Rey told Tahiti-infos on the eve of Bastille Day that France had to look at going back to being better armed ships with sonars, torpedoes, guns, and missiles.

Reacting to alarm in the region over the security pact between China and Solomon Islands, Rey said France wanted to be a power of balance amid the rivalry between the United States and China.

Rey said while nothing had happened yet, there was a risk that China could try to have a military installation in Solomon Islands, although Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has reassured the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva this week that this would not happen.

Rey said that, if necessary, France opposed illegal actions by China, but maintained a dialogue with it.

Maintaining ‘a balance’
The commander said France would continue to maintain a balance by refusing the logic of the two blocs, which could lead to conflict.

In June, then French Overseas Minister Sébastien Lecornu said two new patrol boats would be deployed this year, one in New Caledonia and one in French Polynesia for what he described as surveillance and sovereignty missions.

Lecornu also said this year an exercise would be held involving Rafale fighter jets and A400 transport planes.

He said the challenges posed by geopolitical rivalries in a multi-polar region could only be the subject of an inclusive and multilateral response based on respect for the law.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Georges, a Tahitian volunteer in the French armed forces
Georges, a Tahitian volunteer in the French armed forces, gears up for the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris yesterday. Image: Tahiti-Infos
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