The United Kingdom will soon deploy the largest fleet it has assembled in decades to the eastern Pacific in a major show of military support for the U.S. amid growing tensions with China, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Thursday.
The naval deployment is the largest fleet the U.K. has assembled since the Falklands War in the early 1980s, according to WSJ. The deployment is the first stage of a larger overhaul of the U.K.’s military now that the nation is freshly divorced from the European Union. Much like the U.S., the U.K. is working to remake its military for conflicts against first-world powers after decades of tailoring its military toward fighting insurgents in the Middle East.
“We are all of us light years away from a superpower in scale so don’t have the option of being able to cover all the bases all the time,” U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Thursday. (RELATED: Navy Claims China’s ‘Aggressive Actions’ Are Compromising American Power At An ‘Alarming Rate’)
The U.K. will deploy eight naval vessels in total to the Pacific, partnering with an additional U.S. destroyer and a Dutch vessel, according to WSJ. The group will sail through the hotly-contested South China Sea, an area where China has been aggressively expanding what it calls its borders. The flagship will be the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, one of the U.K.’s two new carriers.
The U.S. and China have for years played a game of cat and mouse in the region, with China flaunting international law by claiming offshore areas as sovereign territory and the U.S., in turn, flaunting those claims by sailing through the territories.
China has responded in recent months by flying faux bombing runs on Taiwan and even carrying out mock missile attacks on U.S. naval vessels.