China: Tobias Ellwood calls on the UK to have a 'strategy'
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The HMS Queen Elizabeth and her carrier group arrived in the South China Sea on Thursday and is set to sail through the disputed waters alongside eight other vessels in a show of strength to Chinese President Xi Jinping. In a grim warning to the UK, Chinese state media outlets have warned Britain “shouldn’t tempt (it’s) own fate in the South China Sea”.
The Global Times, Beijing’s state media outlet, admitted the HMS Queen Elizabeth strike group “has not so far done anything particular that can attract the focus of public attention”.
But in an editorial, the mouthpiece warned Britain “they are obliged to remain restrained and obey the rules”.
The article noted the Washington Examiner said the UK and US’ ‘special relationship’ is only “truly all that special” if “Prime Minister Boris Johnson sends a British warship within 12 miles of artificial Chinese territory”.
It then added: “So far, China has remained restrained to the largest extent.
“Yet it does not mean we will tolerate such provocations in the long term, nor does it mean that US allies can learn from the dangerous posture of the US.
“China is likely to escalate its attempts to expel the warships at any time. In the future, stopping such intrusive behaviour that violates China’s territorial waters is a struggle China is destined to intensify.”
Ramping up its threats, the Global Times advised “US allies to be particularly cautious, keep a sufficient distance from China’s red lines, and refrain from pushing ahead” as Beijing strengthens defences in the South China Sea.
In a direct threat to Britain, the article said: “The very idea of a British presence in the South China Sea is dangerous.
“We respect the right of passage in the South China Sea granted by international law to military forces of all countries, including the UK.
“However, 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 the UK simply does not have the ability to reshape the pattern in the South China Sea. To be precise, if the UK wants to play the role of bullying China in the region, it is demeaning itself.
“And if there is any real action against China, it is looking for a defeat.”
The Chinese outlet also reported on Tuesday Beijing will be carrying out two separate sets of military drills in the sea at the same time as the HMS Queen Elizabeth strike group.
An anonymous expert told the newspaper: “While the Chinese military drills are not likely directly related to the UK warships, they show that the [navy] is at a high combat readiness.
“Just like US warships that intruded Chinese islands and reefs in the region, if UK vessels do the same, they will also be expelled.”
British defence sources told The Guardian HMS Queen Elizabeth would sail “tens of miles away” from the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Beijing.
The aircraft carrier and allied ships entered the South China Sea earlier this week and are expected to leave by the end of Saturday.
In April, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs the UK will also permanently assign two warships to the region.
He said at the time: “We are not going to go to the other side of the world to be provocative.
“We will be confident, but not confrontational.”
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