Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Singapore city, Singapore (4E) – The Royal Navy and the French Navy (“Marine Nationale”) next week will join the U.S. Navy in patrolling the disputed South China Sea, which China has transformed into a militarized enclave in violation of international law.
This naval alliance among three of the western world’s most powerful navies is certain to give China pause, but increases the likelihood of a clash that might lead to war.
UK Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson said the Royal Navy has deployed three warships to the Asia-Pacific to send the “strongest of signals” on the importance of freedom of navigation, and to keep up maximum pressure on North Korea. Deployed to Asia are the HMS Sutherland (F81), a Type 23 frigate; HMS Argyll (F231), a Type 23 Duke-class frigate and HMS Albion (L14), an Albion-class Landing Platform Dock.
Williamson said the main mission of this squadron is to conduct freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea, where Beijing has militarized islands it seized from other countries or
“The reason that they are here and the reason that we are visiting is to send the strongest of signals. We believe that countries should play by the rules,” said Williamson.
“This is even more important at a time when storm clouds are gathering and regional fears are rising, when more nations have nuclear and chemical weapons, not to mention the infringement of regional access, freedoms and security.”
French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly said rules-based international order must prevail in the South China Sea. Parly said the French Navy and the Royal Navy will sail their warships across the South China Sea to demonstrate their right to traverse international waters.
The French Navy warships set to patrol the disputed waters are the FS Surcouf (F711), a La Fayette-class stealth frigate and BPC Dixmude (L9015), a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship or helicopter carrier. These warships were deployed to the Asia-Pacific as part of the Jeanne D’Arc mission, which is an annual deployment undertaken by French Navy ships over a five-month period.
China has unilaterally claimed most of the waters as part of its maritime territory based on its silly “Nine-Dash Line,” which was declared illegal on July 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Parly said the French and British warships will begin their joint patrols next week and will travel to “certain areas” of the high seas. “At some point a stern voice intrudes into the transponder and tells us to sail away from supposedly ‘territorial waters’,” she said, describing a potential encounter. “But our commander then calmly replies that he will sail forth, because these, under international law, are indeed international waters.”
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