China is urgently warning Britain against “flexing muscles” in and around its claimed territorial waters after the UK confirmed it is sending two warships to be permanently stationed off Japan to patrol Asian waters.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in the wake of the announcement earlier this week that Beijing “firmly opposes the practice of flexing muscles at China.” His Wednesday comments to reporters further described that any ‘permanent’ UK military presence “undermines China’s sovereignty and security, and harms regional peace and stability.”
As we described previously, Britain’s Defense Minister Ben Wallace this week unveiled that the UK will keep two warships in the region while in Tokyo meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi. “Following on from the strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the region from later this year,” he had said.
It broadly demonstrates that Britain has of late joined Washington in deepening its security ties with Japan at a moment tensions with China over Taiwan and other contested islands are at their highest in years. The US-UK military build-up appears centered on growing rumors of a near-future Chinese military move on Taiwan, also as the PLA military has of late sent unprecedented numbers of aircraft to breach Taiwan’s Defense Identification Zone.
Rabobank had this to say as the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is en route to the region – first taking part of joint exercises with regional allies including the US Navy:
…The UK just announced its two new aircraft carriers will be based in Japan from now on, with the first due to arrive in September. Think about that for a moment. Two vastly-expensive pieces of military equipment, full of US-made F-35s, and British sailors and sausages, kept on the other side of the world. It says a huge amount about the UK’s intentions to go global in at least one dimension – alongside the Quad. Expect new trade architecture to eventually flow as a quid pro quo, or else the UK isn’t doing diplomacy right. (And that is admittedly a real possibility with the current UK bridge crew, as we see with Northern Ireland.)
Britain is indeed describing a “realignment” to the Indo-Pacific based on its “commitment to collective security”.
UK’s largest warship enters Indian Ocean, to conduct exercises with Indian Navy
HMS Queen Elizabeth, country’s most ambitious naval deployment, warships will sail to South China Sea for military drills with US Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force https://t.co/afsejSo55t
— Amrita Bhinder 🇮🇳 (@amritabhinder) July 21, 2021
Japan is of course welcoming this at a moment the historic Senkaku Islands dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea is again heating up, while an anxious China looks on with growing anger, as Newsweek details:
The Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group, which also has U.S. Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy escorts, is scheduled to transit the contested South China Sea on its way to Japan. China claims almost all of the energy-rich sea as part of its expansive “nine-dash line.”
Earlier this summer China warned the Western allies – specifically the US, UK, and NATO that its military will not “sit by and do nothing” if “challenges” arise. No doubt Beijing will see any new US and UK ‘permanent’ military deployment off Japan as reason enough to act with its own ‘muscular’ deployment in response.