United Kingdom to permanently deploy warships in Asian waters to counter China’s growing influence

The United Kingdom announced that it will permanently deploy two warships in Asian waters after its Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and escort ships sail to Japan in September through seas where China is contending with the United States and Japan.

Plans for the high-profile visit by the carrier strike group come as the UK deepens security ties with Tokyo, which has expressed growing alarm in recent months over China’s territorial ambitions in the region, including Taiwan.

“Following on from the strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the region from later this year,” Britain’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, said in a joint announcement in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi.

Kishi echoed Wallace after the two held talks.

“We reconfirmed our shared position that we firmly oppose attempts to change the status quo by coercion, and the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law,” he said.

After their arrival in Japan, Kishi said, the Queen Elizabeth and its escort ships will split up for separate port calls to US and Japanese naval bases along the Japanese archipelago.

In a statement on the deployment, a Pentagon spokesperson congratulated Britain for its “commitment to an inter-connected network of allies and partners, who mutually cooperate and support freedom of navigation and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.”

A close US ally, Japan hosts the biggest concentration of US military forces outside the US, including ships, aircraft and troops.

However, the British ships won’t have a permanent base, a spokesperson at the British Embassy in Tokyo said when asked which ports the Royal Navy ships would operate from.

The Queen Elizabeth is being escorted by two destroyers, two frigates, two support vessels and ships from the US and the Netherlands.

It will sail to Japan through the disputed South China Sea, which is claimed all or in part by China and countries in Southeast Asia, with stops in India, Singapore and South Korea.

Wallace said Britain had a “duty” to insist on freedom of navigation on its way to Japan.

In addition, the offshore patrol vessels HMS Spey and HMS Tamar will start a permanent deployment to the region next month, supported by ships from Australia, Japan and Singapore.

In a further sign of Britain’s growing regional engagement, Wallace, who travelled to Japan with a delegation of military commanders, said the UK would also eventually deploy a Littoral Response Group, a unit of marines trained to undertake missions including evacuations and anti-terrorism operations.