UK to permanently deploy two warships to Asia-Pacific | Military News


Britain has announced that it will permanently deploy two warships in Asian waters after its aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and escort ships flew to Japan in September across seas where China competes for influence with the United States and Japan.

Plans for the much-publicized visit of the aircraft carrier strike group come as the UK strengthens its security ties with Tokyo, which has expressed growing concern in recent months over China’s territorial ambitions in the region, including Taiwan.

“Following the strike group’s inaugural deployment, the UK will permanently assign two ships to the region from the end of the year,” UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace said in a statement. Joint announcement Tuesday in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi. .

Kishi echoed Wallace after both interviews.

“We reconfirmed our common position that we strongly oppose attempts to change the status quo through coercion, and the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law,” he said. he declares.

After arriving in Japan, Kishi said, the Queen Elizabeth and her escort ships will separate for separate stops at US and Japanese naval bases along the Japanese archipelago.

In a statement on the deployment, a Pentagon spokesperson praised Britain for its “commitment to an interconnected network of allies and partners, who cooperate and mutually support freedom of navigation and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region “.

A close ally of the United States, Japan is home to the largest concentration of American military forces outside of the United States, including ships, planes and troops.

The British aircraft carrier, which carries F-35B stealth jets on its maiden voyage, will dock at Yokosuka, headquarters of the Japanese Fleet Command and USS Ronald Reagan, the only US aircraft carrier deployed forward .

British ships will not have a permanent base, a spokesperson for the British Embassy in Tokyo said when asked which ports the Royal Navy ships would operate from.

“Growing regional commitment”

The Queen Elizabeth is escorted by two destroyers, two frigates, two support ships and ships from the United States and the Netherlands.

It will sail to Japan through the disputed South China Sea, which is claimed in whole or in part by China and Southeast Asian countries, with stops in India, Singapore and South Korea.

Wallace said Britain had a “duty” to insist on freedom of navigation en route to Japan.

In addition, offshore patrol vessels HMS Spey and HMS Tamar will begin a permanent deployment to the region next month, supported by ships from Australia, Japan and Singapore.

As a further sign of Britain’s growing regional engagement, Wallace, who visited Japan with a delegation of military commanders, said the UK would eventually deploy a coastal strike group as well, a marine unit trained to undertake missions including evacuations and counterterrorism operations. .

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, angering its regional neighbors and sparking protests further afield, notably from the US government. His claim on the so-called “nine-dash line” was also dismissed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague as having no legal basis.

“It’s no secret that China is watching and challenging ships passing through international waters on very legitimate routes,” Wallace told The Times newspaper in Tokyo.

“We will respect China and we hope that China respects us,” he said, stressing: “We will sail where international law allows.”

Russia last month strongly protested what it called a violation by a British destroyer of its Black Sea territory.

Despite all of its power projections, the Royal Navy’s deployment is not immune from COVID-19. More than 100 of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s 1,600 crewmembers were shot dead during a layover in Cyprus earlier this month.

Wallace said the ships would adhere to strict COVID-19 protocols in Japan and stressed at a press conference the two countries’ common commitment “to protect the rules-based international order.”

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