Britain risks disgracing itself by sending carriers to S.China Sea

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/28 22:18:39

During a visit in Australia, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Thursday that Britain's two new aircraft carriers could be sent to patrol the South China Sea, and he said that the operation was designed to vindicate the country's belief in "the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade."

UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon made similar comments on Thursday, claiming that Britain would not be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea.

To declare the freedom of navigation in the Western Pacific is not in line with Britain's national interests. It is no longer 1840. There are no longer any British colonies in East Asia and the presence of Britain's warship in the region is more like "an aberration."

It is believed that London has been instigated by the US and its Asia-Pacific allies. We can hardly imagine that London has any genuine motivation to act against China by sending carriers to the South China Sea. Britain's previous administration pledged to create a golden decade for the UK-China relationship and viewed China as its major partner for economic cooperation. 

Brexit is weakening Britain's influence, and it appears that the country needs to do something to assert its sense of identity. If it goes too far, however, it will get itself in trouble. Britain's national strength today is even weaker than when it went to war with Argentina in 1982. And Britain has no capacity to mobilize troops to fight a "New Opium War" with China off the China coast. 

There has never been a problem with navigational freedom in the South China Sea. But ever since China built artificial islands in its Nansha Islands, the US and its allies have started to worry and constantly sent warships to flaunt their prowess and exert military pressure on China. This is a brutal and arrogant response. They view the growth of China's military strength as a threat and regard any reaction to such a "threat" as their right of self-defense.

Obviously, the "freedom of navigation" pursued by the US and its allies is posing a real threat to China's security. Today, the biggest threat in the South China Sea comes from the provocation to China by military forces outside the region. Britain should be aware that if the country's new aircraft carriers are sent to patrol the South China Sea, the Chinese will view it as a provocation.

It seems that Australia lobbied really hard during Johnson's visit. Today, Australia has become one of the countries outside the region that has gotten tough with China over the South China Sea, and it has even acted hysterically against China regarding the issue. China has never provoked Australia but the latter is getting tougher and tougher with China.

The good news is that although Canberra barks hard, it has never really undermined China's strength. But Britain is being reduced to being "an accomplice" or "a dupe." This situation could actually disgrace and humiliate Britain. China has never threatened Britain's security or obstructed the freedom of navigation in the Western Pacific.

China's rise has changed the balance of power around the globe, and this has presented new temptations for Britain to bring its influence as a big power into full play. If Britain sends its carriers to the South China Sea, it will merely be humiliating itself. It seems as if the US is a police officer, Australia is its assistant and the UK is "an accomplice."

Britain needs to maintain its self-esteem. To achieve that, it should be capable of telling the difference between right and wrong and thinking independently. It should not feel that it has lost its identity if it chooses not to take sides and follow the US and its allies. Disputes in East Asia are none of Britain's business. London should avoid getting involved and remain neutral rather than be stupidly "dragged back to Asia" to play a walk-on part that is beneath it.

The relationship between China and the Philippines has improved. Vietnam attempted to drill for oil in the disputed sea area but finally gave up. Whether the South China Sea remains peaceful or not depends on how active forces outside the region are in getting involved and meddling. But those forces have no determination to play for real or take any real risks in confronting China. In face of China's determination to defend its national interests, they are either paper tigers or a paper cat like Australia.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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