The United Kingdom has announced that it will permanently deploy two warships in Asian waters after its Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and escort ships sail to Japan in September through seas where China is vying for influence with the United States and Japan.
Plans for the high-profile visit by the carrier strike group come as the UK deepens security ties with Tokyo, which has expressed growing alarm in recent months over China’s territorial ambitions in the region, including Taiwan.
“Following on from the strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the region from later this year,” Britain’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, said in a joint announcement on Tuesday in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi.
Kishi echoed Wallace after the two held talks.
“We reconfirmed our shared position that we firmly oppose attempts to change the status quo by coercion and the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law,” he said.
After their arrival in Japan, Kishi said, the Queen Elizabeth and its escort ships will split up for separate port calls to the US and Japanese naval bases along the Japanese archipelago.
Pentagon congrats Britain
In a statement on the deployment, a Pentagon spokesperson congratulated Britain for its “commitment to an interconnected network of allies and partners, who mutually cooperate and support freedom of navigation and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.”
A close US ally, Japan hosts the biggest concentration of US military forces outside the US, including ships, aircraft and troops.
The British carrier, which is carrying F-35B stealth jets on its maiden voyage, will dock at Yokosuka, the home of Japan’s fleet command and the USS Ronald Reagan, the only forward-deployed US aircraft carrier.
The British ships will not have a permanent base, a spokesperson at the British Embassy in Tokyo said when asked which ports the Royal Navy ships would operate from.