French Minister of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne during an ambush interview with reporters in Makati City. (Photo by Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

MANILA-- The French government has reaffirmed its commitment to upholding the freedom of navigation after President Rodrigo Duterte the other day challenged Paris along with two Western nations in helping Manila claim its territories in the West Philippine Sea.

"France is very committed to promote and defend the rule of international law that's why our Navy is very often patrolling, cruising in the South China Sea and we will continue [to do so]," French Minister of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told reporters in an interview on Friday.

"Our defense minister made it very clear during the last Shangri La Dialogue a few weeks ago," he added.

On Thursday, President Duterte dared the United States, Great Britain, and France to help the Philippines assert its rights in the contested waters after being frustrated by criticism that he has failed to confront China over its aggression in the disputed territories.

Lemoyne did not directly respond to the challenge posed by the chief executive but underscored that France shares the region's interest in upholding the international laws in the South China Sea since Paris also have territories and soldiers in the Indo-Pacific region.

"It's a proof of our commitment to be sure that freedom of navigation is a fact... is real in the sea," he noted.

Several littoral countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea with Beijing.

The Philippines, which won after the Permanent Arbitration Court ruled against China's invisible demarcation in the disputed waters, temporarily shelved the ruling as it engaged and strengthened ties with Beijing.

On the other hand, the Duterte administration vowed it will not give up an inch of its claim in the West Philippine Sea. (PNA)