South China Sea: UK Says It Has No Plans for Naval Confrontation after China Warning

Britain has said it has no plans to stage a naval confrontation with China in the South China Sea (Bien Dong Sea).
July 31, 2021 | 08:06
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The strike group is led by HMS Queen Elizabeth. Photograph: Ana Brigida/AP
The strike group is led by HMS Queen Elizabeth. Photo: Ana Brigida/AP

Britain also said it aims to send its carrier strike group in the most direct route across the contested body of water from Singapore to the Philippine Sea, the Guardian said.

The cooling message emerged hours after China’s military and state media warned the UK against provocation as the group, led by Royal Navy aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, undertakes what had been expected to be a more assertive deployment.

British defence sources said HMS Queen Elizabeth and allied ships entered the South China Sea earlier this week and are expected to leave by the end of Saturday.

An editorial in China’s state-run newspaper Global Times said the carrier strike group’s navigation to the South China Sea was the “UK’s effort to show its presence in the region”.

We seriously warn this group: They are obliged to remain restrained and obey the rules. Please follow the current international shipping lanes and stay at least 12 nautical miles away from the Chinese islands and reefs,” the editorial added.

China, Britain relations ‘sour’

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s passage through the Singapore Strait came after its flotilla joined up with the Indian Navy in the annual Konkan exercise and the news that Britain plans to permanently deploy two patrol ships in the Indo-Pacific, the South China Morning Post said.

London and Beijing have been at odds in recent months over issues including Hong Kong’s national security law and alleged human rights abuses against China’s Uygur Muslims.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is to perform freedom of navigation operations in international waters alongside US ships STEVE PARSONS/PA
HMS Queen Elizabeth is to perform freedom of navigation operations in international waters alongside US ships STEVE PARSONS/PA

Citing people close to the discussions, British media reported this week that the British government was exploring ways to cut China’s nuclear energy company – China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) – out of all future power projects

The Chinese embassy in London said it had noticed a report and was opposed to political interference or obstructions restricting Chinese firms’ access to British markets.

Cooperation between China and the UK on nuclear energy is mutually beneficial,” the embassy said.

If such cooperation is to be suspended under duress, this will be against the UK’s interest in terms of benefiting from China’s advanced technology and capital investment, developing clean energy to achieve its planned carbon neutrality goal and proving itself to be a credible global partner.”

It said the report’s accuracy had not yet been confirmed. Several British media outlets have reported the story.

Long Jing, a European affairs specialist from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said Britain’s China policy could do some harm.

Britain has many resources, such as the Commonwealth of Nations and the Five Eyes alliance, to achieve its goals, so it can wage real havoc if its actions are underestimated,” she said. The Five Eyes alliance is an intelligence-sharing arrangement that evolved during the Cold War between the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Long also said Britain was “a very pragmatic country, it would pursue the best of its national interests and adjust its approach to China when the US-China relations become more stable”.

US destroyer transits Taiwan Strait

South China Sea: UK Says It Has No Plans for Naval Confrontation after China Warning
Photo: CNN

As the carrier strike group was moving through the South China Sea, a US Navy surface action group was for the first time bringing together two classes of US warships in the region, CNN said.

A US 7th Fleet press release said the combination of the littoral combat ship USS Tulsa and the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd marked the first time ships of those classes have ever combined to form a surface action group.

"These types of SAG operations are exceptional opportunities to harness the combined lethality of the fleet," Capt. Chase Sargeant, a task force commander, said in the release.

Meanwhile on July 28, another US guided-missile destroyer, the USS Benfold, transited the Taiwan Strait between the democratically controlled island of Taiwan and the Chinese mainland and near the northern entrance to the South China Sea.

It was the seventh such transit of the Taiwan Strait by a US warship in 2021.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold transits the Taiwan Strait while conducting routine underway operations on the day.

China has also been flexing its military muscles around the region this week with multiple exercises, according to state-run media outlets.

Two areas of the northern part of the South China Sea were placed under restricted access this week for the exercises, according to an article in the state-run tabloid Global Times

"While the Chinese military drills are not likely directly related to the UK warships, they show that the PLA is at a high combat readiness," the report said./.

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Rosy Huong

Insider

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