The commander of a strike group led by the British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday called their visit to Japan “the cornerstone” of their dispatch to the Indo-Pacific region.
The remark came as Queen Elizabeth made her first stopover in Japan on Saturday in a bid to show the strong ties between the two nations as Tokyo and London deepen defense cooperation in response to China’s military build-up and asserted territorial claims in the East and South China Seas.
The deployment to Japan is “a demonstration of the UK’s commitment to invest in our partnership with Japan,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse said at a virtual press conference.
A screenshot shows Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth-focused strike group, speaking at a virtual press conference on September 7, 2021. (Kyodo)
Britain has stepped up its role in the Indo-Pacific region, having said in its March foreign and defense policy review that it would be “deeply engaged” in the region.
The tilt is in part due to Beijing’s attempts to undermine the rule of law, democracy and human rights, as in Hong Kong, a former British colony.
As the strike group sailed in the South China Sea, Moorhouse said their ships were “escorted, followed by Chinese units,” referring to Chinese Navy ships. But he added that China’s naval activities were “safe and professional”.
The Queen Elizabeth, which entered service in 2017, is the largest British aircraft carrier with state-of-the-art weaponry, capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft, including British F-35B advanced fighter jets and Americans, according to the Royal Navy.
Since August, the strike group, joined by a Dutch frigate and an American destroyer, has been carrying out a series of joint exercises with the Japanese self-defense forces, in veiled opposition to China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Screen capture showing Julia Longbottom, British Ambassador to Japan, speaking at a virtual press conference on September 7, 2021 (Kyodo)
Julia Longbottom, British Ambassador to Japan, who joined the press conference, expressed hope that their countries will make “reciprocal arrangements”, referring to a bilateral pact to facilitate joint exercises between their countries. troops.
“This will allow us to continue an increasingly complex and meaningful UK-Japan cooperation to contribute to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” she said. .
The Queen Elizabeth, which left Britain in May and arrived this weekend at the US Navy base in Yokusuka, southwest of Tokyo, is expected to depart later this week.
Japanese defense chief boards British aircraft carrier
British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth makes its first stop in Japan
Japan and Britain hold joint naval exercises south of Okinawa Island