On February 22nd, US-state outlet Voice of America reported that “leaders as far away as Canada and Western Europe are sending navy ships to the contested South China Sea.”
This, of course, intends to show that other countries, and not just the US wish to antagonize China’s movements and ambition in the South China Sea.
So far, this list includes Canada and France, and maybe the UK.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said in early February that France had dispatched an attack submarine to the sea.
French armed forces Minister Florence Parly tweeted on February 9 that the submarine made its voyage to “enrich our knowledge of this area and affirm that international law is the only rule that is valid, regardless of the sea where we sail.”
It further showed “striking proof of the capacity of our French Navy to deploy far away and for a long time in connection with our Australian, American and Japanese strategic partners,” she said.
According to a report, the French Navy said an amphibious assault ship the Tonnere and the frigate Surcouf had left their home port Toulon on February 18th and would travel to the Pacific on a three-month mission.
The website Naval News reported that the ships would cross the South China Sea twice and take part in a combined exercise with the Japanese and US militaries in May.
A British defense official said last month the U.K.’s flagship aircraft carrier strike group was ready to enter the area.
A Royal Canadian Navy warship sailed near the sea in January and passed through the Taiwan Strait on its way to join exercises nearby with Australian, Japanese and U.S. navies.
“I think there’s pretty much unanimity in terms of the French, the Dutch, the U.K. and other countries that what we’re seeing from China is an attempt to revise the order so that power, not a rules-based approach to the region, is the way the region will be governed or managed going forward,” said Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo.
The UK could be forced to enter the area in a fringe situation. It is bound by its 1971 Five Power Defense Arrangements to help defend former protectorate Malaysia.
Malaysia disputes part of the Chinese claim to about 90% of the South China Sea.
Former French colony Vietnam contests China’s maritime claim including the sea’s Paracel Islands. China controls the Paracel chain today. France still maintains “cultural” and “economic” ties with its former Southeast Asian colonies, Nagy said.
Canada, Australia and Western European countries send ships as well to show support for the United States, according to experts.
The US has dispatched destroyers to the sea twice in February 2021 following regular sailings in 2020.
One other version of events is that, taking advantage of the US-China standoff, and constant antagonism and “freedom of navigation exercises”, the Western Countries are attempting to increase influence in their former colonies and protectorates.
Cheaper labor, access to resources and more, especially in the COVID-19 era is one reason why this is valid strategy in their international policy.
Regardless, though, it is veiled behind presumed support for its ally.
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