Boris Johnson sends ‘non-confrontational’ message to China
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Britain’s new HMS Queen Elizabeth Class Strike Carrier Group will be deployed to the South China Sea, according to Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister sent a word of warning to China, as he visited Portsmouth ahead of the strike carrier’s deployment. He said that the naval mission will be “showing our friends in China that we believe in the international law of the sea”.
This comes amid growing tensions surrounding the South China Sea, as Beijing accuses the US of entering its waters illegally.
Earlier this week, China said an American warship had illegally entered its territorial waters in the South China Sea and was expelled.
Spokesperson Tian Junli said the Chinese PLA had “expelled” the USS Curtis Wilbur, describing the US as a “true troublemaker”.
However, the United States denied this expulsion claim, before adding it was there to “assert” navigational rights and freedoms.
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Speaking to Sky News this morning, Mr Johnson heaped the pressure onto China, saying the UK’s latest mission was a chance for Britain to forge greater alliances with the US and Australia – two key rivals of Beijing.
He said: “It is an opportunity to work with friends and partners around the world. About 40 countries will be joining us on this operation, on this carrier strike group.
“We will be going through Suez, through the Red Sea, around India and into the South China Seas.
“We will be projecting not just Britain’s hard powers, our military capabilities, which are obviously extraordinary, but also our soft power, our values, our belief in democracy and the rule of law.
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“We will be showing our friends in China that we believe in the international law of the sea, and in a confident, but not confrontational, way we will be vindicating that point.”
When pressed on tensions with China, Mr Johnson responded: “We will not antagonise Beijing but the UK plays a very important role with friends and partners, with the Dutch, Australians, the Americans, and many more in upholding the rule of law on which we all depend.
“It is what this carrier strike group will be doing and projectinf Britain’s soft power and influence.”
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Sky’s political correspondent Sam Coates noted that the mission was intended “to project Britain’s naval might”.
In his interview at the naval base, Mr Johnson also called on the BBC to change after the Lord Dyson report on Martin Bashir’s Princess Diana interview.
The Prime Minister said he was “very concerned” about the findings of the damning report into the “deceit” by which Martin Bashir landed his BBC interview with Princess Diana.
He added that he can “only imagine the feelings of the royal family,” and said he hoped the public broadcaster “will be taking every possible step to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again”.
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