China warned Britain against becoming more active in the South China Sea, saying any deployment of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth near the contested Spratly Islands could be seen as a “hostile action.”
Speaking at the Defence Correspondents’ Association in London, China’s Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said deploying the largest aircraft carrier ever built for the Royal Navy may be seen as an aggressive action.
“The South China Sea is a vast ocean, it is three million square kilometres wide, we have no objection to people sailing around there but do not enter Chinese territorial waters within 12 nautical miles,” he said, according to the Daily Express.
He added that Beijing might be forced to respond militarily to HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deployment.
The Ministry of Defence plans to send the new aircraft carrier to the Asia Pacific region during her first operational deployment, which is scheduled for 2021.
The passage will see F-35 stealth jets from the U.S. Marine Corps embarked on the 65,000 ton ship.
The UK government is keen to assert Freedom of Navigation through international waters, alongside U.S. and Australian allies, but Liu rejected the argument the Royal Navy would be upholding international rules should the carrier enter Chinese territorial waters.
Maj. Gen. Su Guanghui, Beijing’s defense attaché to London, warned any British military cooperation with its traditional ally the U.S. would be considered “hostile,” the Daily Telegraph reported.
“If the United States and Britain join hands in a challenge or violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, that would be hostile action,” Su said, according to the report.
The U.S. Navy regularly conducts regular freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to challenge China’s territorial claim.
The region has been at the centre of an ongoing political and military struggle between Beijing and Washington.
Washington believes Beijing is illegally building military facilities and installations on some of the disputed islands while China accuses the U.S. of bullying and provocation and Chinese military officials use sabre-rattling rhetoric.
China condemned Britain in 2018, when HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship, sailed close to the Paracel Islands as Breitbart News reported.
In 2016, China was humiliated when its offshore regional activities were declared illegal by the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. It ruled the Communist country’s claims of “territorial sovereignty” over the South China Sea are in violation of international law.