China's claim on South China Sea & the so-called nine-dash line Photograph:( AFP )
China claims practically the whole 1.3 million-square-mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory, and it has blamed foreign warships for escalating tensions in the region
China has recently issued a warning to the UK's Carrier Strike Group not to carry out any "improper acts" as it enters the South China Sea.
China claims practically the whole 1.3 million-square-mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory, and it has blamed foreign warships for escalating tensions in the region.
The pro-government Global Times, which is seen as a mouthpiece for the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said, "The People's Liberation Army Navy is at a high state of combat readiness".
China has been closely monitoring the progress of the Carrier Strike Group, which is currently sailing through the South China Sea en route to Japan. It has also accused Britain of "still living in its colonial days".
Also, the Royal Navy has been carrying out exercises with the Singaporean navy and Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has made a clear intention to conduct a "Freedom of Navigation" exercise through the South China Sea.
Freedom of navigation operations (or FONOPs) are routinely conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia to counter what Washington refers to as "attempts by coastal states to unjustly limit access to the seas."
Both US and Royal Navy warships have recently challenged China's claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea by purposely sailing through it.
Veerle Nouwens, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), a London think tank was quoted by BBC as saying, "China is not looking for a direct confrontation with a major US ally in the South China Sea". He added, "But it will certainly make its intentions clear".
The HMS Queen Elizabeth is escorted by six Royal Navy ships, a Royal Navy submarine, a US Navy destroyer, and a Dutch frigate, and is carrying eight F-35B Lightning II fast jets, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine and airborne early warning helicopters, and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters on deck.
China has been carrying out incursions, sinking foreign ships, establishing new districts, giving Chinese names to islands, building new artificial islands and using fishing vessels as maritime militias in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea is a strategic waterway surrounded by six nations, such as China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
Two groups of islands here are at the centre of a fierce territorial dispute. The first is the Paracel Archipelago, contested by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The second is the Spratly Islands, disputed between China and all other five nations. These islands are strategic because they are surrounded by waters teeming with marine life and are rich in oil and gas resources.
One-third of the world's shipping traffic also passes through the South China Sea. Beijing claims sovereignty over nearly the entire sea.