Great Britain. France. Germany. Holland. Canada. All are sending warships into the South China Sea to reinforce the « push back » against Beijing.
The UK Department of Defense says a multinational task force focused on the new 65,000-ton aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will arrive in Southeast Asia between April and June.
France sent one of its nuclear submarines to sail in the South China Sea earlier this month. Now it will send the 21,000-ton amphibious assault ship FS Tonnere and a frigate through the disputed waters in the coming weeks.
And last month, the Royal Canadian Navy’s frigate Winnipeg passed the contested cross-strait to highlight a « free and open Indo-Pacific ».
« By shipping cargo to the South China Sea, France and Great Britain are contributing to the US’s anti-China strategies, » said the Beijing-controlled China Daily.
It accuses the West of a « cunning » and « neo-imperial » program in support of Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia « which in turn could create a regional crisis ».
China has built a network of man-made island fortresses to arbitrarily claim the entire South and East China Seas. She has authorized her coast guard to « open fire on intruding ships and » unauthorized « structures.
« It is not China that is responsible for regional instability, but the US and its quad allies, as well as would-be members like France. They should focus on improving economic ties through trade and investment, with no issues between regional states to provoke, « Chinese Communist Party media warned.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly announced earlier this month that the submarine FS Emeraude had traveled the South China Sea to « expand our knowledge of the area and confirm that international law is the only applicable rule regardless of the sea we are sailing on. » « »
« The French military has no place in the South China Sea, » declared state-controlled media, accusing Paris of a « destabilizing » act. « It seems like Paris is interested in extending its destabilizing neo-imperial influence to Southeast Asia, which can only end in disaster, as is the case in much of Africa. »
Even so, a French amphibious ship and a French frigate left Toulon for Southeast Asia last week. The commanding officer of FS Tonnerre told Naval News that he would « work to strengthen France’s partnership with the US, Japan, India and Australia ».
Beijing stepped up its military activities in the East and South China Seas last year. A near-constant chain of warship and aircraft maneuvers, as well as live firearm tests, has signaled his determination to assert dominance over the controversial waterways.
Meanwhile, the Beijing-controlled South China Morning Post has re-accused the US of « escalating » tensions in the region after the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur passed by on Wednesday.
It quoted the People’s Liberation Eastern Theater Command as saying, « The theater troops remain on high alert and ready to counter any threats and provocations. »
Beijing’s state-controlled media have targeted Britain’s historic rivalry with France in a diplomatic « wolf warrior » gibe.
« France is in ‘friendly’ competition with the UK. France didn’t want to feel ‘left out’ and mistakenly thought it would make sense to join the growing militarization of this body of water, » explains the China Daily.
Despite the chaos and bitterness surrounding the separation of the British « Brexit » from the European Union, the island nation and its cross-channel neighbors in the South China Sea have found a common cause.
Britain remains part of the 1971 Five Power Defense Agreement in support of its former colony, Malaysia. The signatories are Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
Similarly, France maintains ties with its former colony, Vietnam, while administering its own Pacific territories such as Reunion Island.
And the Netherlands, which will send a warship to escort HMS Queen Elizabeth, has emphasized that the law of the United Nations must form the basis of any dispute settlement.
In the meantime, Germany plans to send a frigate to Japan as a token of solidarity over the dispute over the East China Sea with Beijing. Australia and South Korea are also expected to visit.
« We want to deepen our relationships with our partners in the democratic camp, » said German Defense Minister Thomas Silberhorn.
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