China rages at Britain over ‘reckless’ Royal Navy warship mission in South China Sea

CHINA has accused Britain of “reckless” actions that amounted to “provocation” after a Royal Navy warship sailed through contested waters in the South China Sea.

Beijing has flown into a rage over with the UK over a Royal Navy operation involving HMS Albion, a 22,000 ton amphibious warship, passing by the contested Paracel Islands in August.

The Royal Navy said the warship sailed past the islands en route to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to demonstrate its “freedom of navigation” rights and challenge Beijing’s “excessive claims” in the region.

But China has warned Britain to consider the consequences of Royal Navy operations in the South China Sea, where Beijing has aggressively asserted territorial claims.

A Chinese frigate and two helicopters were dispatched to intercept HMS Albion as it sailed past the Parcels, whose islands are also claimed by US allies Taiwan and Vietnam.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Britain was “wrong” to challenge Beijing’s sovereignty in a news briefing.

china royal navy warshipGETTY

FURIOUS: China has condemned the ‘reckless actions’ of the Royal Navy in the South China Sea

“They clearly violated the consensus and spirit put forward by Britain’s leadership that they wished to build a golden era in ties with China,” she said.

“This certainly will unfavourably influence the further development of the China-Britain relationship.”

She said Britain risks undermining its relationship with China unless its recognises “the severity of the issue” and takes steps to “rectify the situation”.

Her comments echoed Chinese media, which warned Britain against jeopardising the possibility of a “top notch” post-Brexit free trade deal.

“China and the UK had agreed to actively explore the possibility of discussing a free trade agreement after Brexit. Any act that harms China’s core interests will only put a spanner in the works,” the state-run China Daily said in an editorial.

“They clearly violated the consensus and spirit put forward by Britain’s leadership”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

In the article, titled “UK should try to have more than one friend”, the English-language newspaper accused Britain of trying to “curry favour” with the United States.

“Now that it is eyeing the US as an economic lifeline after it exits the European Union – the United Kingdom is no doubt eager to seize whatever opportunity it can to get into Washington’s good books,” the paper said.

Britain does not recognise China’s claims on the Paracel Islands and the US has also carried out Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, which sees some $3 trillion (£2.3 trillion) of trade every year, are also contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

These have included extensive reclaiming of reefs and islands as well as the construction of runways, aircraft hangars and missile systems.

China’s government is adamant it is entitled to build on its territories and says the facilities are for civilian use and necessary self-defence.

The situation in the South China Sea has stabilised, with the joint efforts of China and Southeast Asian countries, the country’s defence ministry said in a statement responding to the Royal Navy action.

“Certain countries from outside the region pay no heed to this, and send military ships and aircraft to the South China Sea to foment trouble, creating problems where none exist, threatening regional peace and stability,” it added.

China has repeatedly denounced what it views as such interference.

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