Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier of the French Navy in the Mediterranean Sea

NEW DELHI: The French Navy goes to South China Sea multiple times in a year as international 'law of the sea' is at risk there and it wants to support freedom of navigation, its chief said on Monday.

China claims the South China Sea as its sovereign territory, but these claims overlap with those of other Asian governments. Meanwhile, China on Monday urged the US military to "stop flexing muscles" in the disputed South China Sea, a point of persistent friction between both the sides.

French Navy Chief Admiral Christophe Prazuck said in New Delhi, "I don't think that Chinese Navy is hiding anything about their global appreciation and global ambition."

"There are different behaviours in South China Sea. First, why do we go there six, seven or ten times a year? We go there because international law of the sea is at risk in this area of the world. We don't want to participate in to the regional contexts about the islands," he added

"We go there, we will still go there, and we will continue to go there and we continue to, by our action, support freedom of navigation...Political basis of our action is in the realm of navigation," he added.

Prazuck said that in order to deal with the menace of terrorism, France is increasing its defence budget gradually.

"You can not imagine yourself as a peaceful country far away from every crisis, (because) then the crisis in Syria was in the streets of Paris. The guys who organised the attack in Paris -- killing 150 people -- they were in Syria, although it is several thousand kilometres away," he said.

"So, if you want to defend yourself, you just cannot stay on the frontier and wait for the bad guys to arrive. You have to have the tools. So, we are increasing our defence budget. Not fast enough, but I think it is coherent with what is written in our strategic review in 2017," he added, while speaking at an event at Observer Research Foundation.

Talking about the French defence budget and its strategic objective, he said, "It's increasing every year by 1.8 billion euros, which is not nothing....President Macron has put the target of 50 billion euros a year by 2025. It will not make France a superpower. France will never be a superpower for sure."

However, he said, "France has an original place among the countries and can do things, balancing and giving stability, and being in between different countries, and I think that the budget I have today is coherent with our ambitions."

Before 2008, before the pirate crisis in Somalia, there were no Chinese ships in Western Indian Ocean, he noted.

"Very often, piracy is a good excuse for countries to go out of their waters. It has been true for France, it has been true for the Royal Navy, and it has been true for the US Navy when they were fighting pirates in Libya," he said.

"So, from 2008, we have seen Chinese forces in the Gulf of Eden and they are still here even though there is no more piracy," Prazuck added.

He gave the reasons why Indo-Pacific is important to France, saying, "Firstly, because we are a riparian nation, secondly, because we depend so much on it for security and prosperity."

"And thirdly, because some vital elements of common heritage of mankind, be it international law, or the environment, are most critically under threat here," he added.

"Our naval presence in the region is quite significant and increasing because most of the issues we are facing here have either a maritime root illegal fishing or have maritime symptoms like challenges to the international order," Prazuck added.