China has threatened to ‘expell’ British warships from parts of the South China Sea when HMS Queen Elizabeth and her aircraft carrier arrived in the disputed waters today.
The £3 billion aircraft carrier, affectionately known as Big Lizzie, will sail through Beijing’s backyard along with eight other ships as a token of strength for Xi Jingping.
But Chinese state media have warned that any ships that stray too close to islands they claim will be “dislodged.”
Meanwhile, a Chinese academic also told state media that “China welcomes friends with wine, but treats wolves with a shotgun.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth (front pictured earlier this week) has arrived in the South China Sea as Beijing threatens to ‘drive out’ British warships if they sail close to islands it claims
Big Lizzie (far right) sails around the world, accompanied by ships forming the UK Strike Carrier Group, in one of the largest concentrations of British naval power in a generation
F-35 lightning stealth fighters are seen on the deck of Big Lizzie, with a Singapore Navy warship in the background during joint exercises earlier this week
British strike group plans to conduct ‘freedom of navigation’ operations in South China Sea as a rebuke to Beijing, which claims some of its waters are its own
The British carrier strike group, captained by HMS Queen Elizabeth, is currently on a world tour as part of her maiden engagement in what is believed to be the greatest show of British naval power to leave the UK in generations.
Ships have already sailed through the Mediterranean to the Red Sea via the Suez Canal and then from Oman to India, where the British ships participated in joint military exercises with the Indian navy.
Earlier this week, the group sailed through the Strait of Malacca to Singapore, where further joint exercises were conducted, before heading north into the South China Sea.
There, Queen Elizabeth plans to enforce freedom of navigation, intended as a rebuke to China, which claims part of the sea as its own in violation of international treaties.
The carrier also plans to cross the Taiwan Strait in another move that is sure to infuriate Beijing authorities.
Chinese state mouthpiece Global times reported Tuesday that China will also conduct two separate sets of military exercises at sea simultaneously, warning British ships to stay away.
An anonymous expert told the paper: ‘While the Chinese military exercises are probably not directly related to the British warships, they show that the [navy] is in high combat readiness.
A member of the Royal Navy aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth salutes a passing Singapore Navy warship during joint exercises
HMS Kent, a Type 23 frigate, is resupplied from RFA Tidespring during military exercises in the South China Sea
HMS Defender is anchored next to a ship of the Brunei Navy during a visit to the harbor as the British aviation group conducts exercises in the South China Sea
“Like American warships that penetrated Chinese islands and reefs in the region, if British ships do the same they will be deported too.”
A second anonymous expert added: ‘The [navy] will closely monitor the activities of the British warships, stand ready to deal with any inappropriate acts and also see this as an opportunity to practice and study the UK’s latest warships up close.”
After sailing through the South China Sea, the carrier group participates in Exercise Bersama Gold with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
The final stops are in Japan and South Korea, ending a 26,000 nautical mile journey that will have spanned some 40 countries.
After joint exercises with the Singapore Navy, Commodore Steve Moorhouse, who leads the carrier group, said: “The Royal Navy has tremendous affection for Singapore based on our shared history, but Singapore is also a beacon of entrepreneurship in a region that is growing in strategic interest.
“The arrival of the Carrier Strike Group in South East Asia is a clear sign that the UK is ready to work with friends and partners, new and old, to strengthen the security and freedoms on which we mutually depend.
“We are grateful to Singapore for supporting a major logistics stoppage for RFA Tidespring as the Carrier Strike Group continues our program at sea.
“We look forward to working with Singapore again in the fall for Exercise Bersama Gold, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Power Defense Arrangements.”
An American F-35 stealth fighter lands on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth during joint operations in the South China Sea
A Royal Malaysian Navy ship is seen from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth as she sails through the Strait of Malacca earlier this week