British aircraft carrier conducts naval drills in conflict zone

(CNN)– The South China Sea has been the center of naval activity this week, with strike groups from a British aircraft carrier, a US surface task force and troops from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA, for its acronym in English), all carrying out exercises in the South China Sea. disputed sea area.

The British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has drawn attention, with Chinese state media and diplomats accusing Britain of causing trouble in the disputed waters at the behest of the United States.

In a statement provided to CNN, a spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defense said the carrier group legally sails in the South China Sea, “like a third of global shipments each year.” The statement added that the strike group took the most direct route through international waters to conduct exercises with allies and partners in the Philippine Sea.

“As the Secretary of Defense told the British Parliament in April, we will not go to other parts of the world to provoke. We will be confident, but not aggressive,” the spokesman said in a statement.

On Friday, a series of photos posted on the US Navy website showed US Marine Corps jets engaged in operations outside the British aircraft carrier, which was branded with the South China Sea.

“A free and open Indo-Pacific region that is peaceful and stable is essential to ensuring greater prosperity for the region and the world,” the statement read.

United States Marine Corps F-35B fighter jets operate from the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the South China Sea on July 27.

Largest spread in a generation

Ten US F-35 fighter jets were deployed aboard the British carrier, the result of an agreement between Washington and London to align and integrate the operations of their carrier fleet. A destroyer from the United States Navy and a frigate from the Netherlands were also part of the attack group.

In an earlier statement, the UK Ministry of Defence described the strike group as the largest concentration of sea and air power to come out of the UK in a generation. The group left the UK in May and are expected to reach South Korea before returning home in the fall.

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Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory. Starting in 2014, he has worked to turn many dark reefs and sandbars along the waterway into man-made islands heavily fortified with missiles, airstrips, and weapons systems, sparking protests from other rival governments for their rights.

The strike group’s arrival sparked outrage in China. In Chinese state media, Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, described the deployment of the British aircraft carrier as an attempt to “relive the glory days of the British Empire.”

“The latest voyage from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is not only what London calls a crossing of the South China Sea waters under international law, but a carefully planned stunt that serves multiple purposes,” he said. Wu, posted on the British People’s Liberation Army website.

“It’s no secret that Britain has acted engaged with the US on the South China Sea issue, following in their footsteps and dancing to their tune,” Wu wrote.

“The South China Sea is a symbol of Britain’s glorious colonial past, where a former empire that prided itself on its colonies around the world took the wealth and treasures it looted in Asia,” Wu added.

However, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in his speech delivered Tuesday in Singapore, He called the British deployment “historic” and opposed what he described as China’s illegitimate claims in the sea lanes.

Austin said the deployment of the British carrier demonstrated the strength of Britain’s alliance with Washington and other countries in the region.

“I am very happy to see how our friends are strengthening their security ties with each other, further strengthening alliances that prevent attacks,” he said.

An American destroyer crosses the Taiwan Strait

As the carrier group moves through the South China Sea, a US Navy surface task force unites two classes of US warships in the region for the first time.

A press release from the US Seventh Fleet said that the combination of the littoral battleship USS Tulsa and guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd marked the first time the ships of the class had joined forces to form a task force. “This type of SAG operation is a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the fleet’s lethal combination,” said Capt. Chase Sargeant, commander of the task force, in a statement.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, another US guided-missile destroyer, the USS Benfold, transited the Taiwan Strait, between the democratically controlled island of Taiwan and mainland China, and near the northern entrance to the South China Sea.

This is the seventh transit of the Taiwan Strait by a United States warship in 2021.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold transits the Taiwan Strait during ongoing routine operations Wednesday.

China has also flaunted its military might in the region this week with several drills, according to state media.

Access to two areas north of the South China Sea was restricted this week as a result of the maneuver, according to a Article from the state tabloid Global Times.

“Although the Chinese military exercises are unlikely to be directly linked to British warships, they show that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is at a high level of combat readiness,” the report said.

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