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China warns UK against deploying warships to South China Sea

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Britain's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (File photo)

China has sent a stern warning to the United Kingdom against plans to deploy warships to the disputed South China Sea, threatening that such a "hostile" move would provoke retaliation from Beijing.

The Royal Navy will reportedly send the HMS Queen Elizabeth to the waters in the coming months in response to what Britain describes as fears over China’s increasing military force in the waters.

Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei warned that the Chinese military will take necessary measures to “safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests as well as peace and stability in the region.”

“The South China Sea should not become a sea of great power rivalry dominated by weapons and warships," he said. 

Back in 2019, then-UK Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said that the Queen Elizabeth’s first operational mission would include the South China Sea.

Last year, media reports said the warship and its strike group were due to join units of the US military and Japan’s forces near the Japanese Ryukyu Islands as soon as early 2021.

The United States routinely sends its warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to assert what it calls its right to “freedom of navigation.”

China has constantly warned Washington against military activities in the sea, saying that potential close military encounters by the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region could easily trigger accidents.

Tan said the real source of militarization in the South China Sea comes from countries outside this region sending their warships thousands of kilometers from home to flex muscles.  

Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims with China to parts of the sea, which serves as a gateway to global sea routes and through which about 3.4 trillion dollars of trade passes each year.

The US, which sides with China’s rival claimants in the maritime dispute, accuses Beijing of seeking to extend its sphere of influence in the region.

Tan dismissed the accusation, saying that China's “defense build-up and development has always been an addition to the global force for peace.”

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