Royal Navy warship to sail through disputed sea off China - Defence Secretary

Feb 15, 2018, 01:57
Royal Navy warship to sail through disputed sea off China - Defence Secretary

Whilst visiting, Australia defence secretary Gavin Williamson said sailing in the area will assert the rights of freedom of navigation, The South China Morning Post reported.

The anti-submarine frigate HMS Sutherland is on a visit to Australia, beginning this week.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (center) and other Chinese foreign ministry officials return to their meeting with their Philippine counterparts on the second Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on South China Sea in Taguig City Tuesday.

The two sides pursued regular consultations even as Beijing continued to ignore an worldwide tribunal's July 2016 ruling that invalidated its claim over almost all of South China Sea, acting on a Philippine case initiated under the Aquino administration.

Sutherland and her fellow Type 23 HMS Argyll are heading to the Pacific "to continue the pressure campaign on North Korea", the Ministry of Defence said.

But Williamson said in an interview with Australian media that the USA would not be able to adequately focus on the issue alone, saying that Washington "was looking for other countries to do more".

British officials first flagged the voyage six months ago and the journey is likely to stoke tensions with China, which claim control of most of the area and has built military facilities on land features in the sea.

But he did not specify whether the ship would sail within 12 nautical miles of an artificial Chinese island.

"The US is looking for other countries to do more".

Mr Williamson said it was right for countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia to "assert our values" in the South China Sea, a lucrative trade route, which is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

"We've got to ensure that any form of malign intent is countered and we see increasing challenges - it's not just from China, it's from Russian Federation, it's from Iran - and we've got to be constantly making sure that our security measures, our critical national infrastructure is protected".

Most strikingly, ahead of the talks, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque even went as far as to questionably contend that the talks were not a manifestation of warming Sino-Philippine relations but evidence that "we are not being soft on China".

"All countries in accordance with global law enjoy freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea".

Critics have questioned why President Rodrigo Duterte's administration allowed a group from China to undertake scientific research in the waters given Manila's long-simmering territorial conflict with Beijing in the South China Sea.

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