South China waters are red, Brit warships are blue, HMS Sutherland's sailing there | 2/14/2018 | Staff
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A British warship has set sail for the South China Sea, paving the way for aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to do the same thing in three years’ time.

HMS Sutherland, a Type 23 frigate, will sail through the disputed region on her way home from Australia, as much to fly the flag in foreign climes as to carry out a dry run ahead of the nation’s flagship doing the same thing in 2021.

South - China - Sea - World - Choke

The South China Sea is one of the world’s naval choke points. Very high values of trade (the total value was estimated by the Daily Telegraph as £3.8tn) either originates in or passes through the sea. The region is under dispute chiefly because of China, which is trying to extend its territorial limits (and thus the area it can directly control) by building artificial islands to embiggen its borders.

Sutherland will be carrying out a freedom of navigation exercise, which is where a warship sails through a disputed bit of sea to send the message “you can’t stop us doing this”. The idea is to reinforce the notion that international waters, where anyone has right of free passage, can’t be unilaterally claimed by one country.

South - China - Sea - Way - Home

“She’ll be sailing through the South China Sea (on the way home) and making it clear our navy has a right to do that,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told The Australian newspaper.

The US Navy has been carrying out its own freedom of navigation exercises (FONOPs) in recent years as a direct challenge...
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