China accuses UK and France of ‘huddling’ with US ahead of joint military drills

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Chinese state media outlet The Global Times lashed out against the western military drills scheduled for next year. Both the British and French navy will set course for Japanese waters to show force in the region. Japan and China have seen escalating tensions over competing territory claims in the East China Sea, but have attempted to remain diplomatic. It also comes as Beijing and Washington have escalated their deployment of maritime forces in Chinese-claimed waters this year, as tensions in the South China Sea continue to grow.

The Global Times blasted the European nations for joining in with Japan and the US’ military endeavours in Chinese-claimed waters.

It said in a report: “The UK and France are actually trying to huddle together with the US for warmth. The two European countries clearly know that their military strength is not enough for their global ambitions.

“So they want to expand their influence by borrowing plumes from Washington. From this perspective, their move to send warships to the Asia-Pacific region is more symbolic than substantive.”

Zhang Junshe, author of the Global Times’ report, added their involvement came after Japan “internationally accused China” of violating territory claims, which Beijing disputes.

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Japan’s joint military efforts were also rubbished by Mr Zhang in the report, and claimed the UK and France have their own aims in joining the drills.

The report said the European countries “don’t necessarily really support Japan’s claims” and claimed China has sufficient evidence to prove Japanese-claimed islands are rightfully owned by Beijing.

Mr Zhang also added in his report Britain and France’s involvement in the East China Sea is more to appease the incoming US President Joe Biden.

He said: “Both London and Paris want to show their loyalty to Washington. Their support for Tokyo is nothing but a gesture. They know how much they can actually do.”

France is set to join in with Japan and the US for land and sea drills in May.

Japanese media outlet Sankei said the exercises will be conducted on one of the country’s uninhabited islands with a focus on relief efforts against a natural disaster.

But the paper added the joint drills can form the basis for a defence against attacks from Beijing on Japanese-controlled islands.

Admiral Pierre Vandier, chief of staff of the French navy said in a separate interview with Sankei: “We want to demonstrate our presence to the region and send a message about Japan-France cooperation.

“This is a message aimed at China. This is a message about multi-lateral partnerships and the freedom of passage.”

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The British Navy is also set to send an aircraft carrier strike group to Japanese waters in spring next year, also according to Sankei.

Britain’s involvement with Japan is separate to the French drills, but is also meant to show its presence in the Asian-Pacific region.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is set to lead the strike force’s drills with the American and Japanese forces in its stay off the coast of the Nansei Islands, according to Asian news outlet Nikkei.

Both France and Britain’s naval involvement in the Asian territory is rare, and comes after China’s increasing aggression to neighbouring states.

The simmering military row comes after China and the US, under President Donald Trump, have traded sanctions and competing military drills throughout the year in the South China Sea.

Beijing recently launched its second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, into the South China Sea for routine pathing and deterrence against attackers.

Washington has in turn held joint naval drills in the disputed waters with Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra in an effort to counter Chinese aggression.

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