MANILA, Philippines — In an act of defiance against Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, London has suggested that more British ships will sail near the contested waterway.
Adm. Sir Philip Jones, the British Royal Navy’s top official, said the United Kingdom has an obligation to showcase military support for its allies in the region.
“If you are going to have a different interpretation of that convention to the majority of nations then that has to be resisted,” Jones told the Financial Times, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“Otherwise you could see right around the world nations who will start to make their own interpretations,” he added.
China has refused to acknowledge the July 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.
The tribunal concluded that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS upon constructing artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Last month, Chinese state media published an editorial slamming the British Navy’s “reckless actions” that challenge China’s sovereignty.
“It is the continuous provocative maneuvers by navies from outside the region that have escalated tensions and threatened the stability and endangered maritime safety in the South China Sea,” China Daily said in its editorial published September 6.
In its editorial, China Daily warned the UK that possible trade deals with China might be put at risk if it continues freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.
“China and the UK had agreed to actively explore the possibility of discussing a free trade agreement after Brexit, but any act that harms China’s core interests will only put a spanner in the works,” it said.
The China Daily editorial was published a week after British Royal Navy warship sailed close to the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry described the British action as “provocative” for supposedly infringing Beijing’s sovereignty and violating Chinese and international laws.
“China strongly urges the British side to immediately stop such provocative actions, to avoid harming the broader picture of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.