China warns Britain over basing aircraft carrier in Pacific

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to set sail on a tour that includes the Pacific amid concerns over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. PHOTO: ROYALNAVY/INSTAGRAM

LONDON (AFP) - Beijing's ambassador to London has warned Britain against stationing a new aircraft carrier in the Pacific, arguing it would be a "very dangerous move", in a newspaper interview published on Saturday (July 18).

Mr Liu Xiaoming, China's top envoy in the UK, told The Times that as London cuts trading ties with the European Union later this year, it should not "gang up with the United States on the Chinese" with military deployments.

"After Brexit, I think the UK still wants to play an important role in the world," he told the paper.

"That is not the way to play an important role."

The Times reported this week that British military planners have hatched plans to station the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier in the Pacific as part of an international alliance to counter China.

The £3.1 billion (S$5.4 billion) vessel is due to set sail on its maiden deployment next year, on a tour that includes the region amid concerns over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

But the possibility of basing the carrier there more permanently comes as tensions between London and Beijing are rising over a host of issues, and as US-China relations also deteriorate markedly.

Britain on Tuesday bowed to sustained pressure from Washington and ordered the phased removal of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its 5G network despite warnings of retaliation from Beijing.

Mr Liu called the move a "disappointing and wrong decision" and has predicted it will sap billions of pounds of investment in Britain from China's firms.

"Now all things (have) changed," he told The Times, adding Huawei was now "an example" to other Chinese companies.


Britain and China have also clashed over Hong Kong, after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law in the former British colonial territory.

London has said in response that it will offer Hong Kong residents a broader path to British citizenship, which could pave the way for more than three million Hong Kongers to move to Britain.

Mr Nathan Law, one of its most prominent young democracy activists, announced on Monday that he has already relocated to Britain due to the draconian new security law which punishes subversion, sedition, terrorism and foreign collusion with up to life in prison.

Mr Law told The Times his decision was a "strategic move for the movement" rather than a personal choice.

"In Hong Kong, people no longer have freedom of expression and are facing intimidation, arbitrary detention and arbitrary use of force by the police," he added.

"My existence is a warning signal... to remind people that the Hong Kong you used to know is gone."

However, Mr Liu warned it would be "very dangerous" for Britain to allow Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement to decamp to the country.

"That will be a serious problem", he said, adding "we'll wait and see" what the consequences would be.

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