Fresh off a hard-fought Brexit deal with Brussels, the United Kingdom has immediately plunged itself into the center of Asian geopolitics and on a maritime collision course with China.
Touting itself as “a global power with truly global interest”, the UK has announced the successful initial test of the newly-launched aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, its largest warship on record.
Having achieved initial operational capacity, the UK’s flagship Carrier Strike Group — centered on the 65,000-tonne carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth with state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighter jets, helicopters, submarines, frigates and destroyers — can now be deployed within just five days of initial notice for any global contingency.
Regional media reports suggest that Asia’s contested waters, including the South China Sea, will be its first major area of deployment in the coming months.
At the same time, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the country’s armed forces to maintain “full-time combat readiness” and “act at any second” in response to external threats amid Western powers’ “flexing muscles.”
In comments to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Xi highlighted real and emerging “frontline military struggles” which stand at the heart of China’s national security strategy in the 21st century.