BEIJING - A leading Chinese newspaper has criticized Britain’s decision to sail one of its warships through the disputed South China Sea next month.
Media reports said on Wednesday that British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson had said in remarks published a day earlier during a visit to Australia that the UK was to send a warship through the South China Sea to assert Britain’s purported right to freedom of navigation.
Chinese newspaper The Global Timesreacted on Wednesday, saying Britain was trying to grab attention by sending the military ship to the South China Sea, where territory is disputed between China and smaller neighbors, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The widely read state-run tabloid demanded that British officials state clearly the objective 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 Defense is trying to validate its existence and grab attention.”
The paper went on to question Britain’s military and financial power, asking whether the Royal Navy could actually complete the tour, 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. This file photo, taken on August 16, 2017, shows people lining the shore to watch the leaking British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth docking at Portsmouth Harbor for repair. (By AFP)
China has repeatedly accused countries outside the region — the United States in particular — of trying to stir tensions in the South China Sea and exploit territorial disputes by sending warships there under the pretext of exercising self-proclaimed freedom of navigation rights.
This is while Beijing has been involved in peaceful diplomacy with its neighbors to address the territorial disputes.
Billions of dollars in trade commodities pass through the South China Sea each year.