China criticizes British freedom of navigation mission plans

BEIJING (AP) — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

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CHINA SLAMS UK PLAN TO SEND CARRIERS TO SOUTH CHINA SEA

China’s foreign ministry criticized plans by Britain to send its new aircraft carriers on freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea to challenge Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the strategic waterway.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters Friday in response to a question on statements by British officials that “some countries” from outside the region “insist on stirring up trouble while the situation is trending toward calm in the South China Sea.”

“Regardless of what banner these countries or individuals fly under, or what excuses they may peddle, their record of the same kind of sanctimonious interference in the affairs of other regions, leaving behind chaos and humanitarian disaster, prompts countries in this region to maintain a high degree of vigilance,” Lu said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson confirmed following a high-level meeting in Sydney with his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, that missions to the South China Sea would be near the top of deployment plans for the new carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade,” Johnson said.

British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon later said…

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