Beijing has warned against “stirring up trouble” in the South China Sea after Britain vowed to send a warship through the heart of disputed waters next month.
Gavin Williamson, British Defence Secretary, said HMS Sutherland, an anti-submarine frigate, would sail through the sea on its way home from Australia to assert freedom of navigation rights.
“She’ll be sailing through the South China Sea and making it clear our Navy has a right to do that,” he told The Australian newspaper after a two-day visit to Sydney and Canberra.
China claims nearly all of the strategic waters, despite partial counter-claims from Taiwan and several south-east Asian nations including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
Observers say China is developing its military capabilities by fortifying and building infrastructure on what were previously reefs and partially-submerged islets in the sea, where more than $5 trillion (£3.8 trillion) of trade passes every year…
Beijing has been enraged with previous ‘freedom of navigation’ patrols which have been carried out by the US Navy, and has sent out warships to confront them.