MANILA, May 25, 2021, PhilStar. The United Kingdom’s RoyalNavy will deploy one of its largest aircraft carrier for a 28-week world tour, including the Philippine and the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea, The Philippine Star reported.
The Queen herself went onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth to bid farewell to 1,700 UK navy, air force and marines personnel, as well as 250 US marines prior to its world tour.
“The aircraft carrier will cover 26,000 nautical miles in 28 weeks, from the Mediterranean to the Philippine Sea,” the Royal Family tweeted on May 22.
According to a report from BBC, the aircraft carrier will also sail through the South China Sea, where China claims indisputable sovereignty despite a 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its expansive maritime claims.
British defense secretary Ben Wallace, however, said the UK is not looking for a confrontation in the area, BBC reported.
In September 2018, Beijing lashed out at London after HMS Albion sailed near Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. A month after this incident, the Royal Navy’s top official declared that they will be sailing more ships to the contested waterway.
HMS Queen Elizabeth will lead a carrier strike group including destroyers HMS Diamond and Defender; frigates HMS Richmond and Kent; an Astute-class submarine and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring, the Royal Navy said in a press release.
Aside from the vessels, more than 30 aircraft, such as F-35 jets from 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, and the US Marine Corps’ VMFA-211; Wildcat helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron and Merlin helicopters from 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons will also join the strike group.
The Royal Navy said Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen and American Arleigh Burke destroyer USS The Sullivans will also join the British group.
“When our Carrier Strike Group sets sail… it will be flying the flag for Global Britain—projecting our influence, signalling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow,” Wallace said in April.