BRITAIN’S new super-carrier should form the centre of a multinational taskforce to challenge Beijing’s stranglehold of the South China Sea, defence sources said last night.
It follows a new report by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, backed by senior Admirals, which includes the move as part of a seven-point plan to ensure China holds no control over the vital trade route. More than twelve percent of British trade passes through the South China Sea each year, worth £92 billion. In September Britain was accused of “provocation” by Beijing after HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship which usually carries Royal Marines, was deployed to the South China Sea on a ‘freedom of Navigation” exercise.
The Royal Navy vessel was briefly chased by a Chinese warship and her decks buzzed by low flying Chinese fighter jets as she sailed near the Parcel islands, controlled by China but claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
The new plan, if adopted, would satisfy US requests for naval support in the region with British vessels, joined by those from Australia, the US and neighbouring countries.
The report’s recommendations include the creation of a Pacific Nato “to deter attacks on smaller countries that seek to uphold the Law of the Sea”; for the Royal Navy to have a permanent facility in Singapore and/or Brunei and investment in new capabilities “to circumvent potential opponents’ increasingly sophisticated anti-access and area-denial systems.”