France invites Asia-Pacific states to purchase Mistral-class ships

France invites Asia-Pacific states to purchase Mistral-class ships
Paris is interested in selling its Mistral-class ships, dubbed the ‘Swiss Army knife’ of the French Navy, to the Asia-Pacific countries, France’s new armed forces minister, Sylvie Goulard, stated at the Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit in Singapore.

“We invite partners from Asia to purchase Mistrals,” she told participants of the IISS Asia Security Summit on Saturday, as cited by TASS. 

The Mistral-class amphibious assault ships host up to 16 helicopters, up to 70 armored vehicles, and 450 marines.

“France recently sent one of these ships to the region” [to take part in joint drills with the UK, US, and Japan], Goulard noted, while expressing concern over the situation in the South China Sea.

“All parties must comply with the law,” Goulard said, adding that “France, UK and other European countries are interested in stability in the South China Sea, since a large flow of our trade passes there.”

Last month, US, British, Japanese, and French troops gathered on US islands in the Pacific for drills aimed at supporting the free passage of vessels in international waters, amid fears that Beijing could restrict movement in the disputed South China Sea.

France had two ships participating in the drills, including one Mistral.

Last year, France handed over two Mistral ships – left over from a broken Moscow-Paris contract and equipped with Russian electronics – to Egypt. 

READ MORE: France hands first ‘ex-Russian’ Mistral ship to Egypt

Both the ships were initially built for, and partly in, Russia as part of a contract signed in 2011.

When the first ship was ready in 2014 and the crew was already on board mastering the vessel’s equipment, France froze the ship’s delivery to Russia. Paris explained the withdrawal with Russia’s alleged role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.