Published: Sat, July 29, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

United Kingdom to send warship to South China Sea, raising tensions with Beijing

United Kingdom to send warship to South China Sea, raising tensions with Beijing

China claims most of the energy-rich sea but its neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also say they own parts of the water.

"One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area... to vindicate our belief in the rules-based global system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade", Johnson said during his visit to Sydney as quoted by The Guardian newspaper.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday urged the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to oppose the intervention of non-regional forces in South China Sea, referring to recent military excursions carried out by the USA in the area.

"We have the right of freedom of navigation and we will exercise it".

Wang said warming relations between Beijing and Manila had helped ensure stability in the South China Sea, where rival claims have long made it one of Asia's potential military flashpoints.

His predecessor Benigno Aquino had sought the ruling and in 2015 suspended Philippine exploration activities at Reed Bank, where Manila's claims overlap those of China.

"We flew RAF [Royal Air Force] Typhoons through the South China Sea last October and we will exercise that right whenever we next have the opportunity to do so, whenever we have ships or planes in the region", Fallon said.

An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods are transported through South China Sea shipping lanes each year - and it has vast oil and gas deposits.

It has destroyed hundreds of foreign fishing vessels caught in its territory and earlier this month said it had renamed the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea.

The Philippines won a case at a U.N. Court of Arbitration past year, invalidating China's claims to most of the sea.

In May, an American warship sailed within 12 miles of one of the reported islands. Diplomatic sources report that China threatened to attack Vietnamese installations in the Spratly Islands if Repsol did not halt its work.

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