China is warning Britain against becoming more active in areas near disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Maj. Gen. Su Guanghui, Beijing’s defense attaché to London, has said British military cooperation with the United States would be considered “hostile,” The Telegraph reported.
“If the United States and Britain join hands in a challenge or violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, that would be hostile action,” Su said, according to the report.
The statement comes at a time when Britain could be considering deploying the HMS Queen Elizabeth to the South China Sea.
The British government has supported freedom of navigation in international waters, and working with allies, including the United States and Australia.
The planned deployment would include the embarkation of F-35 stealth jets from the U.S. Marine Corps on the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth.
Liu Xiaoming, China’s top diplomat to Britain, warned the British against “doing this dirty job for somebody else.”
Beijing has claimed the South China Sea as territorial waters, but it has also said international vessels are free to navigate the high seas as long as they stay 12 nautical miles away from the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands.
China condemned Britain in 2018, when HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship, sailed close to the Paracel Islands.
London was accused of a “provocative action.”
“The South China Sea is a vast ocean…we have no objection to people sailing around there but do not enter Chinese territorial waters within 12 nautical miles,” Liu said. “If you don’t do that, there shouldn’t be a problem. The South China Sea is wide enough to have free navigation of shipping.”
Britain defends its naval deployments, according to Sky News.
“The presence of international navies in the South China Sea is normal and the Royal Navy is no exception to this,” a British naval spokesman said. “We remain committed to asserting rights of freedom of navigation at sea and in the air as provided for by international law.”