A British warship is set to sail through the disputed South China Sea on its way home from Australia, in a move designed to assert freedom of navigation rights through the region.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson made the announcement following a two-day visit to Sydney and Canberra, telling local media that the HMS Sutherland, an anti-submarine frigate, would make the trip next month.
“She’ll be sailing through the South China Sea and making it clear our Navy has a right to do that,” Williamson said.
Williamson would not say whether the warship would sail within 12 nautical miles of any of the disputed territories in the area, as previous US warships have done, according to The Guardian.
The Daily Telegraph says Beijing “sharply criticised” the UK last summer when the idea of a freedom of navigation exercise was first raised, accusing nations including the US and Britain of “stirring up trouble” in the region.