Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the Royal Navy’s deployment of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to the South China Sea for its first operation, claiming the move shows the UK’s belief in international maritime laws.
Late last month, it was announced that a carrier strike group, including the newly deployed flagship carrier, would travel to Asia via Europe, Africa and the Middle East on a 28-week-long course.
Responding to Beijing’s criticism of Western nations for deploying their naval forces in the South China Sea, Johnson on Friday defended the plan, denying its impetus was an attempt to “antagonize anybody.”
One of the things we’ll be doing clearly is showing to our friends in China that we believe in the international law of the sea, and in a confident but not a confrontational way.
When the planned deployment was first proposed by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, it was described as an opportunity to fly “the flag for Global Britain”, with the strike group “reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow.”
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Joint military exercises in the contentious region by Australia, France, Japan and the US have sparked anger from the Chinese government for exacerbating a “tense situation” and creating “instability and security risks”. The forces taking part in the drills claimed they were simply defending free and open waters in the Indo-Pacific region.
Beijing has stepped up its own military activity in the South China Sea in recent months, in what the Chinese government has insisted were manoeuvres to protect its “national sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction” in the region.
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