World

UK trying to grab attention with S China Sea mission: Chinese paper

BEIJING Britain's Defence Ministry is trying to justify its existence and grab attention with a planned mission to the disputed South China Sea next month, a Chinese newspaper said yesterday.

A British warship will sail through the South China Sea to assert freedom-of-navigation rights, British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in remarks published on Tuesday during a visit to Australia.

The journey is likely to stoke tensions with China, which claims control of most of the area and has built military facilities on islands there.

The widely read state-run tabloid the Global Times said Mr Williamson needed to state clearly the purpose of the mission.

"If not provocation, the Royal Navy should behave modestly when passing through the South China Sea," it said in editorials published in its English and Chinese-language editions.

"By acting tough against China, Britain's Ministry of Defence is trying to validate its existence and grab attention,"it said.

The paper wondered whether the Royal Navy could actually complete the trip, considering budget cuts and problems with a new aircraft carrier that has a leak.

"As the Royal Navy has been hit by news such as a leaky aircraft carrier and the UK government has a tight budget, it appears a difficult mission for the Royal Navy to come all this way to provoke China," it wrote.

China has repeatedly accused countries outside the region - generally a reference to the United States and Japan - of trying to provoke trouble in the South China Sea while China and its neighbours are trying to resolve the matter through diplomacy.

Speaking of Britain's plan, China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it hoped "relevant sides don't try to create trouble out of nothing".

Britain, which will be leaving the European Union next year, has looked to China as one of the countries it wants to sign a free trade deal with. British Prime Minister Theresa May ended a largely successful trip to China earlier this month. - REUTERS

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