Francois Hollande.jpg
Photograph: EPA/FRANCOIS MORI / POOL MAXPPP OUT

French President Francois Hollande announced a multi-billion dollar aviation deal and pledged support for right of passage in the South China Sea during a state visit to Vietnam on Tuesday.

The aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which is partly based in Toulouse, will sell 40 commercial planes to Vietnam worth 6.5 billion dollars under a deal announced by Hollande at a press conference.

Hollande also reaffirmed French support for maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, in line with international conventions, despite China laying claim to most of the area. 

The two sides agreed to strengthen defence cooperation and have French ships visit Vietnamese ports. France also pledged to support Vietnam’s growing involvement in international peacekeeping. 

Hollande is the first French president to visit Vietnam in 12 years. While the trip’s schedule is mostly routine, the trip comes at a time of increased tension over the South China Sea. 

The French Navy is expected to begin conducting naval patrols in the disputed zone which are aimed at undermining China’s maritime claims to the area. 

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has also urged other EU members to contribute to naval patrols in the disputed zone.

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