UK must not shirk responsibility to stand up to Beijing threat in South China Sea – expert

US Navy told to ‘depart immediately’ from South China Sea patrol

And Bill Harris, chief operating officer with defence consultants Radiant Blue, has urged Boris Johnson to use the extra resources provided by the 10 percent hike in defence spending to continue to “project its military presence” in the South China Sea. The increase will see an extra £16.5billion spent on defence over the course of the next four years amid suggestions Mr Johnson had got his way in the face of opposition from the Treasury.

Mr Harris, who has also worked for US defence contractor Lockheed Martin during the course of his 30-year careers, told there were no shortage of priorities in an increasingly unstable world.

However, he added: “The rapidly evolving threat of China in the South China Sea is a global issue that should be addressed, both militarily and economically.

“China is an economic powerhouse requiring significant natural resources and trading partners to continue to fuel its economy, which in turn allows China to invest heavily in its military assets and infrastructure.”

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“To counter the evolving China threat, a global stance must be taken to ensure a fair and balanced trade environment occurs with China.”

With specific reference to the UK, Mr Harris said: “It is true that the UK military and economy are dwarfed by China.

“But taken in context with the UK’s allies and global trading partners, this ‘coalition’ now becomes ‘on par’ with China.

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“Additionally, the UK, with its NATO allies, must continue to project its military presence in the South China Sea to ensure the global economic trading routes remain open, free, and safe passage.

“The projection of Navy assets in this region of the world would continue to demonstrate the UK’s ability and willingness to project their military power to assist in countering the ever-evolving threat of China’s projection of power in the South China Sea and beyond.”

Speaking in July, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of Parliament’s influential Defence Committee, highlighted the South China Sea as a particular flashpoint between China and the West.

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Referring to Beijing’s policy of turning uninhabited islands into military fortresses, he said: “Once they have turned these islands into military fortresses, their next step is to impede international maritime access.

“And once they have achieved that, I expect them to introduce what is called an air defence identification zone, which is essentially controlling the airspace.

“This is contrary to international law.

“Many of these islands are disputed territories and yet nobody is standing up to China.

“It is creating this nine-dotted line area of exclusion and the international community has turned a blind eye.”

Speaking to Sky News last month, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said of the £16.5billion: “It is enough, depending on how your ambition is tailored.

“I’ve been very clear as defence secretary that one of the failures of the past reviews was our funding never matched our ambition – that goes for most of the reviews in the last 40 years.

“This means that we can have a proper discussion about what are our global ambitions and how are we going to fund it.

“This very large settlement for defence will allow us to fix the problems that we’ve inherited – the black hole that the National Audit Office obviously identified – and allow headspace to modernise our forces.”

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