On Friday, the British government denied that it was deliberately provoking China by sailing naval vessels through the South China Sea. The Chinese state media reacted threateningly to the arrival of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is accompanied by ships from the Netherlands and the United States.
State medium Global Times had warned “US allies” in a comment to be “extremely cautious”. Otherwise, there would be a chance that “China would set an example to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
According to the Chinese state medium, the western ships must remain at least 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometers) from the Chinese islands and reefs. They are also not allowed to deviate from the international sailing routes.
The British Ministry of Defense calls the passage in accordance with international agreements. A spokesman says the most direct route is through international waters to conduct drills with allies in the Philippine Sea. “We don’t go to the other side of the world to act provocatively.”
China is also regularly at loggerheads with the United States over such transits. The Americans then send ships to the resource-rich South China Sea, which China largely claims to the chagrin of other countries in the region. Beijing has placed military installations on artificial islands to back up those claims.