In a significant escalation of Sino-British tensions, China has warned the UK against sailing ships in Chinese territorial waters in the South China Sea.
China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, reacted strongly to reports that the UK is considering sending its sole aircraft carrier close to China’s Spratly Islands.
Reacting to suggestions that the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth may sail into Chinese territorial waters with US jets onboard, Liu Xiaoming replied curtly that Britain “should not do this dirty job for somebody else”.
Speaking at the Defence Correspondent’s Association in London, the Chinese ambassador firmly rejected suggestions that Britain’s Royal Navy is attempting to uphold “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea.
The ambassador’s warning was reinforced at the same briefing by China’s military attaché in the UK, Major General Su Guanghui, who warned that British warships risk facing an “armed response” in the event of violating Chinese territorial waters.
In recent years the UK and the US have sought to provoke China by aggressively testing Chinese sovereignty over islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
Barely two weeks ago, the US navy destroyer Wayne E. Meyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs, both of which are claimed by China.
In September 2018, the British warship, HMS Albion, sailed dangerously close to China’s Paracel islands in the South China Sea.
The Chinese condemned Britain’s “provocative actions”, whilst the UK maintained that the Royal Navy was conducting a “freedom of navigation” exercise “in full compliance with international law”.
The Chinese warning to Britain to desist from collaborating with the US comes against the backdrop of broader tensions in Sino-British relations.
In the same briefing today, Liu Xiaoming accused British politicians of demonstrating a “colonial mindset” over Hong Kong.
The ambassador argued that it was a “problem” if British politicians made “irresponsible remarks to show support” for “demonstrators and rioters” in Hong Kong.
But in an egregious sign that some British politicians are determined to keep on provoking China, the Tory MP Tom Tugendhat tweeted today that UK MPs “can’t be told” what to say by “Communist party apparatchiks”.