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France's recent overtures toward China could be the start of a new period of tension between Washington and Paris. On Mar. 16 the French and Chinese navies began five days of joint exercises off the north Chinese coast. For Beijing, the exercises are the most sophisticated ever with a foreign navy. They could be the sign of much tighter relations to come between China and France, particularly if the French government succeeds in persuading the European Union to drop its 15-year-old embargo on arms sales to China.
The French aerospace and defense industries see China as a potentially lucrative market. But sales of French missiles and other defense products would raise concerns in Washington, which still restricts technology sales to China. Washington also isn't likely to be pleased with apparent French interference in Chinese-Taiwanese relations. The naval exercises began just days before voters in Taiwan head to the polls to decide whether to reelect a pro-independence President. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady