UK plans to send warship to S.China Sea
Britain plans to send a warship to the disputed South China Sea next year to conduct freedom of navigation exercises, in a move likely to anger Beijing.
Britain would increase its presence in the waters after it sent four British fighter planes for joint exercises with Japan in the region last year, Defence Minister Michael Fallon said.
China claims most of the energy-rich sea where neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
"We hope to send a warship to region next year. We have not finalised exactly where that deployment will take place but we won't be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea," Fallon told Reuters.
"We have the right of freedom of navigation and we will exercise it."
The presence of a British vessel threatens to stoke tensions, escalated by China's naval build-up and its increasingly assertive stance.
The comments by Fallon came after Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the country's two new aircraft carriers would be sent to the region.
Johnson did not specify where exactly the vessels would be sent once operational in 2020, though the presence of such firepower will likely heighten tensions in the region.
China's construction of islands and military facilities in the South China Sea has stoked international condemnation, amid concern Beijing is seeking to restrict free movement and extend its strategic reach.
Britain's move could also upset ties between London and Beijing, undermining efforts to shore up what the two governments have called a "golden era" in their relationship as Britain heads towards a divorce with the European Union.
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