UK grab­bing at­ten­tion with S. China Sea mis­sion — pa­per

Business World - - THE WORLD -

BEI­JING — Bri­tain’s De­fense Min­istry is try­ing to jus­tify its ex­is­tence and grab at­ten­tion with a planned mis­sion by a Bri­tish war­ship to the dis­puted South China Sea next month, a Chi­nese news­pa­per said on Wed­nes­day.

A Bri­tish war­ship will sail through the South China Sea to as­sert free­dom- of- nav­i­ga­tion rights, Bri­tish De­fense Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson said in re­marks pub­lished on Tues­day dur­ing a visit to Aus­tralia.

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

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philip­pines, Tai­wan and Viet­nam also have claims to the en­ergy-rich sea through which bil­lions of dol­lars in trade pass each year.

The widely read state- run tabloid the Global Times said Mr. Wil­liamson needed to state clearly the pur­pose of the mis­sion.

“If not provo­ca­tion, the Royal Navy should be­have mod­estly when pass­ing through the South China Sea,” it said in ed­i­to­ri­als pub­lished in its English and Chi­nese-lan­guage edi­tions.

“By act­ing tough against China, Bri­tain’s Min­istry of De­fence is try­ing to val­i­date its ex­is­tence and grab at­ten­tion,” it said.

The pa­per won­dered whether the Royal Navy could ac­tu­ally com­plete the trip, con­sid­er­ing bud­get cuts and prob­lems with a new air­craft car­rier that has a leak.

“As the Royal Navy has been hit by news such as a leaky air­craft car­rier and the UK gov­ern­ment has a tight bud­get, it ap­pears a dif­fi­cult mis­sion for the Royal Navy to come all this way to pro­voke China,” it wrote.

China has re­peat­edly ac­cused coun­tries out­side the re­gion — gen­er­ally a ref­er­ence to the United States and Ja­pan — of try­ing to pro­voke trou­ble in the South China Sea while China and its neigh­bors are try­ing to re­solve the mat­ter through diplo­macy.

Speak­ing of Bri­tain’s plan, China’s For­eign Min­istry said on Tues­day it hoped “rel­e­vant sides don’t try to cre­ate trou­ble out of noth­ing.”

Bri­tain, which will be leav­ing the Euro­pean Union next year, has looked to China as one of the coun­tries it wants to sign a free trade deal with once it leaves the bloc. Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May ended a largely suc­cess­ful trip to China ear­lier this month.

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