Published On: Fri, Jul 28th, 2017

Britain will send ‘COLOSSAL’ warships to South China Sea despite mounting military fears

Boris Johnson revealed the show of strength was designed to demonstrate Britain’s support for free navigation rights in international waters at a time when China is trying to claim the area as its own.

The move is likely to anger Beijing officials who have claimed “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands”.

Mr Johnson said: “One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”

“We believe that for world trade to prosper there must be a fairness about the way sea lanes are going to operate.”

But he insisted their deployment was “not because we have enemies in the region… but because we believe in upholding the rule of law”.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon yesterday confirmed that at least one British warship would be sent to the region next year, although he declined to say which.

The new £3 billion HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier and its sister ship HMS Prince of Wales are the biggest warships ever commissioned by the Royal Navy.

However earlier reports had said the Queen Elizabeth, which left to begin sea trials last month, was not set to be in “operational military capability” until 2020.

The Prince of Wales is still in the shipyard and is due to be ready for frontline duties in 2023.

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