Britain will send an aircraft carrier strike group to the Indo-Pacific next month as it seeks to boost its presence in the region, the Royal Navy said on Monday.
Led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the group will visit 40 countries, including India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, in a deployment lasting 28 weeks and covering 26,000 nautical miles, it said.
The group will also take part in exercises with the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean and with warships and aircraft from its other allies, including the US, Canada and Japan.
While in the Pacific, ships from the strike group will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Five Powers Defence Arrangements – a series of loose defence agreements between Australia, Britain, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore – with the five countries taking part in a joint drill known as the Exercise Bersama Lima.AdvertisementAdvertisement
HMS Queen Elizabeth, carrying eight F-35B Lightning strike aircraft, will be joined on her maiden deployment by two destroyers, two frigates, a nuclear submarine and two logistics vessels from the Royal Navy.
According to the navy’s statement, the deployment is intended to bolster Britain’s defence partnerships in the Pacific region.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “When our carrier strike group sets sail next month, it will be flying the flag for Global Britain – projecting our influence, signalling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow.
“The entire nation can be proud of the dedicated men and women who for more than six months will demonstrate to the world that the UK is not stepping back but sailing forth to play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st century.”
The deployment would tighten political ties in the region, he said, but added it was not intended to be provocative.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the commander of the strike group, said the deployment was a demonstration of the Royal Navy’s resurgence after decades of contraction.
“As our nation redefines its place in the world post-Brexit, it is the natural embodiment of the government’s ‘Global Britain’ agenda,” he said. “And against a backdrop of growing instability and competition, it reflects the United Kingdom’s continued commitment to global security.”
Since voting to leave the European Union in 2016, Britain has sought to promote its international standing under the “Global Britain” banner. But unlike the United States and the EU it has yet to outline a formal Indo-Pacific strategy.
Song Zhongping, a former instructor with China’s People’s Liberation Army, said Beijing was unlikely to pay much attention to the deployment.
“China will welcome any friendly deployment, but will definitely hit back if Britain becomes provocative near Chinese territory,” he said.
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