Defence Minister Michael Fallon said on Thursday, Britain plans to send a warship to the disputed South China Sea next year to conduct freedom of navigation operations.
UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson has committed the UK’s two brand new aircraft carriers to freedom of navigation exercises in the fiercely contested waters of the South China Sea.
Britain would expand its appearance in the waters after it transferred four British fighter planes for joint exercises with Japan in the region last year, he said.
“We hope to send a warship to region next year. We have not finalized exactly where that deployment will take place, but we won’t be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea,” Fallon said. “We have the right to freedom of navigation, and we will exercise it.”
The presence of a British vessel warns to increased strains, escalated by China’s naval build-up and its increasingly aggressive stance.
“We flew RAF Typhoons through the South China Sea last October and we will exercise that right whenever we next have the opportunity to do so, whenever we have ships or planes in the region,” Fallon added.
China’s installation of islands and military facilities in the South China Sea has stoked international conviction, amid concern Beijing is seeking to restrict free movement and increase its strategic reach.
China claims most of the energy-rich sea where neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claimed.