The move is a deliberate attempt to provoke China and will undoubtedly lead to an escalation of tensions between the two countries

Jamal Elaheebocus

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced this week that British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail through the South China Sea next month.

In a totally paradoxical statement, Wallace said that the West must work to avoid a Cold War in the region. Yet he then went on to announce that the warship and her escort fleet will sail through contested waters in the South China Sea before arriving in Japan, claiming that Britain has a ‘duty’ to insist on freedom of navigation. This is all despite a large outbreak of Coronavirus cases on the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth which is plaguing the flotilla’s provocative mission around the globe.

The move is a deliberate attempt to provoke China, which claims much of the South China Sea, and is extremely dangerous given that it will undoubtedly lead to an escalation of tensions between the two countries. It is also further proof that Britain will be shoulder to shoulder with the US as they continue to escalate tensions with China.

On top of this, Wallace also announced in a joint statement with Japan that Royal Navy warships will be deployed permanently in the region, as well as a Littoral Response Group. The fleet will also take part in exercises in the Philippines Sea with Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan, South Korea and the US.

These moves follow in the footsteps of the US, which continues to deploy warships in the contested waters. Last month the USS Ronald Reagan entered the South China Sea, accompanied by guided-missile cruisers and destroyers. Then this week the USS Benfold entered the waters of the disputed Paracel Islands without the approval of the Chinese government and was driven away by the Chinese military.

Biden continues to uphold many of Trump’s policies towards China, including the rejection of most of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. This was a significant change from former US policy which insisted that maritime disputes between China and neighbours must be solved through UN-backed arbitration.

There are also clear similarities in the language used by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Trump administration around China, with current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken accusing China of continuing “to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway.”

What is needed is de-escalation from the US and UK rather than petty war games. A new Cold War would be a shameful waste of money and resources when the NHS is at breaking point due to underfunding and the government is threatening continuing austerity.

But above all a new Cold War will only cause more suffering for ordinary people across the world and will do nothing to solve the pressing issues of the pandemic, poverty and environmental destruction.

23 Jul 2021 by Jamal Elaheebocus

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