British Military Forces to Join US Patrols in the South China Sea
British military forces would be joining the US, Australia, and Japan to conduct freedom of navigation patrols in the disputed South China Sea by 2020, Britain's ambassador to the US said on Friday.
Ambassador Kim Darroch announced that British fighter jets and new aircraft carriers will be conducting overflights and will sail in disputed areas in the region by the year 2020 when the military equipment become operational.
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Darroch told Reuters that British fighter jets currently deployed to visit Japan would fly over disputed territories in the region to assert its overflight rights. However, he did not give an exact time frame.
Darroch said British naval forces would also sail their new aircraft carriers in the disputed sea once these carriers become operational by 2020.
Defense analysts have noted that the British ambassador's announcement would irk Beijing as Chinese authorities have repeatedly opposed foreign interference in resolving the South China Sea dispute.
China has reiterated in recent months that the South China Sea dispute must be resolved through bilateral negotiations between Beijing and the claimant-countries without any meddling from third party countries such as the US.
Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia have overlapping claims on islands and shoals in the resource-rich waters.
"As we bring our two new aircraft carriers onstream in 2020, and as we renew and update our defense forces, they will be seen in the Pacific," Darroch said.
The British ambassador stated that incoming US President-elect Donald Trump shares the objective of outgoing US President Barack Obama to protect and open the sea lanes and air routes in the region through the freedom of navigation patrols.