Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese National Defence Ministry has warned that Beijing may respond in kind to a UK aircraft carrier strike group sailing through the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
The spokesman told reporters on Friday that the ministry respects freedom of navigation but firmly opposes any naval activities that may provoke controversy.
“The action should never try to destabilise regional peace, including the latest military collaboration between the UK and Japan. The Chinese Navy will take any necessary actions to counter-measure such behavior”, Wu pointed out.
He was echoed by the state-run Chinese tabloid Global Times, that noted “the very idea of a British presence in the South China Sea is dangerous”.
REUTERS / Peter Nicholls
The Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth, Britain August 16, 2017
“If London tries to establish a military presence in the region with geopolitical significance, it will only disrupt the status quo in the region […]. And if there is any real action against China, it is looking for a defeat”, the news outlet noted.
The claims come after a spokesperson for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said the HMS Queen Elizabeth strike group was lawfully navigating the South China Sea, “just as one third of global shipping does on an annual basis”.
Aside from Beijing, the contested waters of the South China Sea are claimed by a number of countries, such as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The US has no claims to the area, but it often conducts so-called “freedom of navigation” missions there, resulting in condemnation from Beijing.
Beijing Warns not to Flex Muscles Against China
Wu’s statement on Friday follows the Chinese Foreign Ministry pointing out last week that Beijing “firmly opposes the practice of flexing muscles at China”, adding that London’s drive to send warships to Asia “undermines China’s sovereignty and security, and harms regional peace and stability”.
This was preceded by British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stating earlier this month that “following on from the [Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier] strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the [Indo-Pacific] region from later this year”.
According to Wallace, the deployment of HMS Spey and HMS Tamar, the Royal Navy’s new River-class offshore patrol vessels, aims to support operations with Australia, Japan, and Singapore, as well as presumably the United States.
AP Photo / Bullit Marquez
Chinese structures and buildings on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are seen 18 kilometers (11 miles) away from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea
The defence secretary announced the decision after a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi of Japan, stressing that London and Tokyo had a duty “to protect those that are unable to protect themselves from adversaries that will threaten them”.
Wallace touted the strike group’s Indo-Pacific mission in April, when he stressed that it “will be flying the flag for Global Britain” to protect the country’s “influence” and reaffirm the UK’s “commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow”.
He made the remarks after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented the country’s new foreign policy review to British lawmakers in late March, a document that specifically said the Indo-Pacific region was “increasingly [becoming] the geopolitical centre of the world”.
The review also argued that Beijing’s increasing power and assertiveness are likely to become the main “geopolitical factor” of the current decade, urging Britain to make more of an effort to adapt to China’s growing impact on the world.