South China Sea: Military exercises ‘must continue’ says expert
It is thought the Royal Navy will send the HMS Queen Elizabeth to the waters due to fears over Beijing’s increasing military force in the area. Speaking to a press conference, China’s defence ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said: “The Chinese side believes that the South China Sea should not become a sea of great power rivalry dominated by weapons and warships.”
China has claimed a large part of the South China Sea as its own which has triggered territorial disputes.
Neighbouring countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have argued that China has decimated industries such as fishing in the waters.
Over the years, Beijing has created military bases and airstrips on islands and reefs in the disputed region.
China said it will take action to “safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interest” in the waters.
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It also accused other countries of being the source of militarisation in the South China Sea.
Mr Tan said: “The real source of militarisation in the South China Sea comes from countries outside this region sending their warships thousands of kilometres from home to flex muscles.
“The Chinese military will take necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interest as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.
“China’s defence build-up and development has always been an addition to the global force for peace. We hope various parties can correct their prejudice and have a rational view of China and its military development.”
The South China Sea is about 14 times the size of the UK and stretches from the Philippines to Malaysia and from the edge of Indonesia to Vietnam.
Several countries including the US have accused China of breaching international law over its claims in the waters.
However, Mr Tan blasted a report which urged for the 30 member countries of the transatlantic security alliance to focus on the “security challenges” posed by Beijing.
He added: “China opposes the baseless speculation and false accusation in the report and its defence policy remains defensive in nature.
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“China’s defence build-up and development has always been an addition to the global force for peace.
“We hope various parties can correct their prejudice and have a rational view of China and its military development.”
The report on the future of the alliance said the scale of Chinese power and global reach posed “acute challenges to open and democratic societies”.
It added: “Particularly because of that country’s trajectory to greater authoritarianism and an expansion of its territorial ambitions.”
The UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth vessel is the biggest warship built by the Royal Navy.
In 2017, it was commissioned for service and expected to be deployed to the South China Sea for its first operational mission.
In February 2019, former British defence minister Gavin Williamson confirmed the warship’s first operational mission would include the South China Sea “making a global Great Britain a reality”.
The Navy’s aircraft carrier, along with its strike group, are also believed to be joining forces with the US military and Japan’s Self-Defence Forces near the Japanese Ryukyu Islands “as soon as early next year” according to reports.
In July the US formally denied China’s “illegal claims” over the South China Sea.
America also criticised Beijing for building militarised features in the region and has frequently sent warships to the waters to dispute China’s claims.
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