RN and South China Sea
Freedom of navigation patrolsare not about power projection, presence, or deterrence.
Joint Freedom of Navigation Patrols in the South China Sea
[By Shashank Joshi and Euan Graham]
During a trip to Australia this month, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that HMS Sutherland, a British frigate currently deployed to Australia and the Western Pacific, would return from its tour via the South China Sea, “making it clear our navy has a right to do that.” Williamson is the third British minister to commit the country’s naval forces to Asian waters in as many years, following his predecessor Michael Fallon in 2016 and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in 2017.
British patrols in the South China Sea are a good idea. They would tangibly illustrate the UK’s global footprint at a time when European questions have sucked much of the oxygen from Britain’s foreign policy debate, and when doubts are growing about Britain’s ability to sustain its influence in Asia. A British contribution to wider efforts to push back against China’s growing assertiveness would be welcomed across much of the region. But to be meaningful, patrols must go beyond one-off demonstrations of the flag.
To continue reading, please click here.