UK warship ignores Beijing warnings and enters the South China Sea

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Published: Jul 27, 2021, 02:52 PM(IST)

Britain’s most advanced and biggest warship, the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

One-third of the world's shipping traffic also passes through the South China Sea. Beijing claims sovereignty over nearly the entire sea. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth, a British aircraft carrier, and its Carrier Strike Group have entered the South China Sea, a territory predominantly claimed by China, reports the UK Defence Journal.

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.

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 the US and the UK have previously enraged China by conducting FONOPs in the South China Sea to assert freedom of navigation rights.

Watch | Gravitas: British warship to challenge Beijing in South China Sea

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.

(With inputs from agencies)

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