New British carriers to join allied effort to secure air, sea routes in South China Sea

by WorldTribune Staff, December 2, 2016

British aircraft carriers will join freedom of navigation efforts in the South China Sea, the UK’s ambassador to the U.S. said on Dec. 1.

“Certainly, as we bring our two new aircraft carriers onstream in 2020, and as we renew and update our defense forces, they will be seen in the Pacific,” Ambassador Kim Darroch told a Washington think tank.

British Royal Air Force Typhoon. /Reuters
British Royal Air Force Typhoon. /Reuters

Darroch added that British Typhoon aircraft currently deployed on a visit to Japan would fly across disputed parts of the South China Sea to assert international overflight rights.

“We absolutely share the objective of this U.S. administration, and the next one, to protect freedom of navigation and to keep sea routes and air routes open,” Darroch said.

Four British fighter planes arrived in Japan in October to take part in exercises with Japanese forces at a time of rising tensions over China’s pursuit of disputed territory in East Asia, including the South and East China Seas.

Meanwhile, Darroch said British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump discussed the importance of all NATO members meeting their defense spending commitments in a telephone call this week, their second since Trump’s Nov. 8 election victory.

Darroch said all NATO states had committed to spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense, yet only five, including the United States and Britain, were doing so.

Trump has criticized European NATO members for not meeting their spending commitments and has also called on U.S. Asian allies Japan and South Korea to pay more for their defense or risk the alliances.

“I think the criticism … during this election campaign that a number of NATO countries aren’t doing everything they can … is entirely fair and we will see how the incoming administration wants to take that forward,” Darroch said.

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