China threatens Taiwan with war as Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares for Pacific mission
THE flagship of the Royal Navy must be ready to stand up against a ‘thuggish’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ China when she deploys on her maiden voyage, British leaders have warned.
Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is just months away from setting off from Portsmouth on her first operational mission, which will take her to the Pacific.
The £3.2bn warship will spearhead Britain’s new carrier strike task force – touted by the Royal Navy as Europe’s most powerful naval battlegroup.
But tensions have flared in the contested waters of the South China Sea over Beijing’s ‘increasingly threatening and aggressive’ behaviour towards the island of Taiwan.
Taiwanese leaders insist they are independent of the Communist-led regime, enraging China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which this month warned ‘independence means war’ as it ramped military activity around Taiwan.
Now a former head of the Royal Navy has accused China of ‘cocking a snook’ at law and order and warned HMS Queen Elizabeth’s task force would need to be on its guard.
‘China is behaving in an extremely dangerous way, flexing their muscles and saying they can do what they want, and that “you better be careful otherwise we will invade Taiwan” – I think all of this is highly dangerous,’ said Admiral Lord Alan West.
‘With all the things that China is doing, they’re cocking a snook at the rules-based order of the world.’
Throughout January the PLA staged a number of drills near Taiwan and breached the island’s airspace on several occasions.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the toughened stance was ‘necessary’ to safeguard ‘national sovereignty and security’ in the Taiwanese Strait.
‘They are a solemn response to external interference and provocations by Taiwan independence forces,’ he said before adding: ‘We warn those Taiwan independence elements: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and Taiwan independence means war.’
The action outraged MP Andrew Rosindell, who sits on the British-Taiwanese all-party parliamentary group in Westminster.
The Tory insisted Britain needed to do more to stand up against China and he welcomed the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth.
‘China's behaviour in the Taiwan Strait during January was particularly thuggish, even by China's notorious standards,’ he told The News.
‘According to reports in the Taiwanese media, Chinese military aircraft violated Taiwanese airspace on 30 different days with Chinese propaganda claiming this was to prepare “to fight the possible war through exercises”.
‘Taiwan will be the litmus test for whether this is a century governed by western norms of democracy, free peoples, and the rule of law, or a century defined by an authoritarian shift led by a power-hungry Beijing.
‘It is time the West made itself absolutely clear: our allegiance to Taiwan as an independent and sovereign country is firm and unshakeable.
‘I am glad to see the UK government deploying HMS Queen Elizabeth as a sign of the United Kingdom’s willingness to uphold our commitments to Taiwan in the face of Chinese bullying.’
HMS Queen Elizabeth will be deploying alongside two Type 45 destroyers, two Type 23 frigates, a pair of support tankers from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and a submarine.
The task force will also be bolstered by American military muscle, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans joining the fleet, alongside a squadron of F-35B stealth jets that will be embarked alongside a British squadron on Queen Elizabeth.
It is expected to depart Portsmouth in May.