Vietnam Time

9/10/2019 5:26:32 PM

UK sends carrier into East Sea, China calls it 'hostile action'

Britain has been warned by China that the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth to the East Sea could be viewed as a “hostile action”, after Britain’s Ministry of Defense plans to send its new aircraft carrier to the Asia Pacific region on her first operational deployment, due in 2021.


HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to be deployed to the Asia Pacific region. CREDIT: GARETH FULLER/PA WIRE

According to Telegraph, the Britain’s government is keen to assert freedom of navigation through international waters and, alongside US and Australian allies, has been forthright in defending such actions against an increasingly belligerent China.

The planned deployment will see F-35 stealth jets from the US Marine Corps embarked on the 65,000 ton ship.

Speaking in London last week Major General Su Guanghui, China’s Defence Attaché to the UK, said: “If the US and UK join hands in a challenge or violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, that would be hostile action”.

China reacted angrily last year when HMS Albion, one of the Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ships, transited the East Sea, near Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagos . At the time the British government was accused of “provocative actions” in the contested region.

The UK’s MoD insisted HMS Albion was always in international waters.

On September 3-6, 2018  the UK Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ship HMS Albion, commanded by Naval Captain Tim Neild, docked at the Ho Chi Minh City port, officially starting a four-day visit to the city of the crew-members.

The visit of the warship, with 555 troops on board, is one of the activities in celebration of the 45th founding anniversary of the Vietnam-UK diplomatic ties (September 11, 1973 - 2018). It also aims to implement contents of the agreements signed between the two countries’ defense ministries in the past on strengthening the bilateral friendship and defense cooperation.

With its standard displacement of 19,560 tons, 176 meters in length and 28.9 meters in width, the HMS Albion is capable of carrying 67 tanks and armored vehicles of all kinds and accommodating from 405 to 710 troops depending on real combat situations. The rear submerged deck can contain up to four landing boats and two high-speed canoes to serve the landing and loading of troops and equipment during combat.


The HMS Albion approaching Ho Chi Minh City port in 2018. Photo: PANO

China’s claim to the 12-mile limit around the islands - and the similarly Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos 200 miles further south - is not internationally recognised.

Vietnam has full legal foundations and historical evidence affirming its sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos in accordance with international law.

Many international experts also have criticised China's illegal activities in the East Sea and demanded China to end its actions that have increased tensions in the region, to comply with international law and to implement trust-building measures to avoid conflicts.

Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK Insisted that China would “never seek hegemony, expansion or a sphere of influence”. 

“The South China (East) Sea is a vast ocean... we have no objection to people sailing around there but do not enter Chinese territorial waters within 12 nautical miles,” he said. “If you don’t do that, there shouldn’t be a problem. The South China (East) Sea is wide enough to have free navigation of shipping.”

China has been accused in recent years of building artificial islands in the East Sea to expand its military reach, in violation of international law.

Liu strongly condemned the confrontation with HMS Albion, saying it had created a lot of problems in China-UK relations and suggested the UK had been acting on behalf of a foreign power, believed to be the US. “It was to show muscle,” he said. “The UK should not do this dirty job for somebody else.”

A UK’s Government spokesperson said: “The UK has enduring interests in the region and is committed to maintaining regional security. The presence of international navies in the South China (East) Sea is normal and the Royal Navy is no exception to this.

“We remain committed to asserting rights of freedom of navigation at sea and in the air as provided for by international law.”

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