In a significant development, Britain’s new aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth made a pit stop in Singapore as part of a move to boost Britain’s military presence in Asia midst rising tensions in the region.
The aircraft carrier led a British carrier strike group in exercises with Singapore’s military at the weekend, which included naval manoeuvres and simulated combat training with F-16 fighter aircrafts and F-35B stealth fighters.
London plans on permanently deploying two warships in Asian waters where there is a growing move to contain China’s increased belligerence midst Chinese island building and militarization of sea lanes that are vital to global trade.
“Our recent integrated review highlighted the importance of the Indo Pacific and the UK’s intent to tilt here and have an increased footprint, and much more persistent presence,” said strike group commander, Commodore Steve Moorhouse. “What better way to just show that off in the first instance, with Queen Elizabeth deploying here for her first operational deployment.”
According to a statement from the British government, “Singapore is one of more than 40 countries the strike group will interact with through visits or exercises during its global deployment”.
Built at an estimated cost of $4 billion, the Queen Elizabeth is the largest ever warship built by the British military.
In recent years, Beijing has deployed coastguard ships all over the South China Sea and has militarized manmade islands with missile systems and made territorial claims that an international arbitral court has declared invalid.
Earlier this month, the PLA’s air force made its largest ever incursion into Taiwan’s air defense zone.