Britain says it is set to patrol South China Sea, a move likely to irk Beijing

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 07:58 GMT, Jul 28, 2017 |

Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Defence Minister Michael Fallon have said the country plans to send their two new aircraft carriers to the disputed South China Sea, a move likely to anger Beijing.

On an official visit to Australia, Johnson said on Thursday (July 27) that sailing through the Straits of Malacca would be one of the carriers’ first missions, and that all parties should “respect freedom of navigation and international law”.

Fallon added on Friday (July 28) that he hoped to “see the Queen Elizabeth sailing in all oceans of the globe” as the country looks to safeguard the trade routes upon which it’s economy depends.

The British presence in the region threatens to stoke tensions, escalated by China’s naval build-up and its increasingly assertive stance. China claims most of the energy-rich sea where neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.