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Global Times

UK warships' S.China Sea tour 'threatens China politically more than militarily'

Global Times

By Liu Xuanzun Published: Jul 21, 2021 11:55 PM

Despite a COVID-19 outbreak on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the UK on Tuesday reaffirmed that it will sail the carrier task force through the South China Sea in August in a direct challenge to China and announced it will permanently deploy warships to the region. But leading Chinese military experts said on Wednesday that the move threatens China politically more than militarily, and China is capable of dissolving the threat.

During a visit to Tokyo, Japan, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed on Tuesday that the HMS Queen Elizabeth and her escort fleet will transit "international waters claimed by China" in the South China Sea next month, the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.

Wallace also announced that the UK plans to deploy Royal Navy warships permanently to the region in a show of support for its allies, the report said, noting that after passing through the South China Sea in August, the UK fleet will partake in exercises in the Philippines Sea with Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the US.

There was a COVID-19 outbreak recently on the HMS Queen Elizabeth, with more than 100 cases, the BBC reported last week.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday that neither the UK aircraft carrier nor its task force has achieved full combat capability yet, and its true combat capability is questionable when it cannot even contain a coronavirus outbreak.

UK warships are facing many technical issues that have been exposed in recent missions, and operating far from home will only further amplify their problems, another Chinese military expert, who asked not to be named, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The UK should prioritize the safety of its troops instead of making political shows with the aircraft carrier group, the expert said.

By insisting on going ahead with its South China Sea tour and permanently deploying warships to the region, the UK aims to show off its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and participate in a joint fleet in the region led by the US, Song said.

While the warships in themselves pose some threat to China, the tour's political influence is a bigger threat because other Western countries like Australia and Canada could also follow and form this joint fleet that regularly sails the South China Sea and East China Sea, with the aim of confronting China, Song said.

It remains to be seen if this will happen, but even if it does, China will be able to dissolve the threat, Song predicted.

Under the threat from aircraft carriers and other warships from the US, China has developed many anti-ship weapons including DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles that serve as deterrents to unfriendly foreign warships. It is also building a strong navy with advanced warships and aircraft carriers of its own, observers noted.

On Sunday, the Chinese People's Liberation Army Southern Theater Command announced it had recently organized a confrontational exercise in the South China Sea featuring multiple types of warplanes, warships, submarines and land-based missiles.

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