The new British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has made a port visit to Japan, in a mission that is increasing pressure from Tokyo, the US and allies on China over its increasingly assertive regional maritime presence.
The Queen Elizabeth is the flagship of the British Carrier Strike Group, which has made stops in Japan in recent weeks and has conducted exercises with ships from allied countries.
“This run-up to Japan by the British carrier strike group and the joint exercises represent the intention of our two nations,” Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Monday at the Yokosuka base, where the British ship is visiting.
“The defense cooperation between Japan and the UK contributes not only to the security of our nations, but also to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific and the international community, while also addressing global issues,” Kishi added. .
Both countries have opposed unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the disputed East China and South China seas and the importance of a free and open maritime order, he said.
In a statement, the British embassy in Tokyo said the deployment was “a powerful demonstration of the UK’s close and lasting partnership with Japan and the UK’s commitment to maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region”.
The massive carrier, weighing 65,000 tons, is the largest surface ship ever built in the UK and leads a group of six British ships and a submarine, an American destroyer and a Dutch frigate.
Billed as “the largest concentration of naval and air forces to leave the UK in a generation,” the group has already sparked a blunt warning from Chinese state media.
In July, an editorial in the nationalist state newspaper Global Times warned that China might feel compelled to respond to the fleet.
It addressed the UK and the allied strike force specifically, saying: “We seriously warn this group: they are required to remain subdued and obey the rules.”
It came as the group entered the disputed South China Sea after exercises with the navies of India, Malaysia and Singapore ahead of the Japanese stops.
The British Ministry of Defense said at the time that the deployment was “confident, but not confrontational”.
Beijing’s claims to the entire South China Sea include uninhabited islets barely above the waterline, as well as man-made islands built to house airstrips and military bases.
The CSG21 is expected to visit 40 countries for a deployment spanning more than 26,000 nautical miles.
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