France dives back into the South Pacific

Paris is refocusing attention on its island territories, the new strategic front line between Asia and the Americas, writes Cleo Paskal

The World Today
5 minute READ

Cleo Paskal

Former Associate Fellow, Environment and Society Programme and Asia-Pacific Programme

After a relatively quiet period, Paris is re-energizing its maritime empire, particularly in the Pacific. In the past year alone, there have been huge military sales, paradigm-shifting diplomatic initiatives, and unusual visits by French political leaders to far-flung islands. The first question is why? The second question is: what does that mean in the context of China’s growing role as a Pacific maritime power?

France has impressive global reach. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, every qualifying island can claim up to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). France has islands all over the world that qualify, including the Pacific territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna.

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