France plans to spend $361 billion on defense from 2019 to 2025, up 55 percent from the 2014-2018 budget period. France is also the world’s third biggest arms supplier, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says.

France will use the South China Sea mission to prove the worth of its hardware, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei.

China will protest the European ships with a statement and, eventually, more militarization at sea, analysts expect.

“Beijing can shadow the ships and follow the French vessels and tell them to leave the waters, and then they can file a diplomatic complaint in the aftermath, but it’s mostly just symbolic as opposed to like actually preventing it from happening,” Spangler said.

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