Warships from the British Navy’s carrier strike group will enter the South China Sea in August regardless of China’s potential response, UK Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace said in an interview with The Times newspaper.
According to the military official, China is organizing escorts for ships passing through international waters on perfectly legal routes and is threatening such ships. “We will respect China and hope that China respects us,” Wallace pointed out. He emphasized that British ships will choose a course consistent with international law.
The minister did not answer the question of whether there are plans to pass through the 12-mile zone around the islands, which China considers it’s own. But he asserted that “protecting freedom of navigation in international waters is the United Kingdom’s duty.”
Tensions in the South China Sea have persisted for years over claims by several countries in the region to the Spratly Archipelago and the neighboring Paracel Islands. In addition to their strategic location at the crossroads of maritime routes of the Indian and Pacific oceans, the value of the islands is also determined by the fact that their shelf contains significant reserves of oil and minerals. China, along with Vietnam, has claims to these territories. On July 12, the Chinese Defense Ministry protested to the US about the “incursion” of the US destroyer Benfold into the Chinese territorial waters near the Paracel Islands.
In all likelihood, after the exit from the EU, Britain intends to pursue a more active power policy. It became known that the British special forces will take up a new covert mission against China and Russia, with an emphasis on countering “major state adversaries,” writes The Times.
It has been suggested that the special forces may work in conjunction with the MI6 intelligence service. They would spy on military and intelligence units of Russia and China and train the naval forces of countries located near the South China Sea for better protection against “Chinese hostility.”