South China Sea: Beijing warning as Germany sends first warship to region since 2002

South China Sea: Chinese Air Force carries out training

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The ship will be the first German vessel to cross the South China Sea since 2002, officials said on Tuesday. Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said: “This should not be used as an excuse to endanger the sovereignty and security of littoral countries.”

On Tuesday, China’s neighbour, Taiwan, began the first of six tests on cruise missiles.

They are capable of striking targets the Chinese coast – and are seen as a possible warning amid looming pressure from Beijing, which claims ownership of the island nation.

Taiwan, a democracy of 24 million people, rejects this. Analysts believe China is poised to take back the island with military force.

Germany’s foreign and defence ministries said the ship will not pass what they called the “12-nautical-mile”.

The term refers to a belt of coastal waters extending 12 nautical miles from a country’s coastline which is deemed as the limit of territorial control any country can exert.

The German frigate is expected to depart for the South China Sea in August, according to Berlin.

The mission, they said, is to strengthen multilateralism and demonstrate Germany’s support for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Washington hailed the plans put forward by their NATO allies. A spokeswoman for the US State department told Reuters: “We welcome Germany’s support for a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific. 

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“The international community has a vital stake in the preservation of an open maritime order.”

Beijing’s “nine-dash line” territorial claim covers almost all the waters in the South China Sea. China has gradually expanded its presence in the region by building military outposts on artificial islands.

The US has regularly accused Beijing of militarizing the region and trying to exploit the natural oil and gas reserves.

US vessels regularly conduct pass-by manoeuvres close to some of China’s artificial islands to assert freedom of access to international trade routes.

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The French Embassy in Tokyo has also declared that their own frigate, the Prairal, had also been deployed in Asian waters.

The French vessel has been “participating in the system to fight against the circumvention of United Nations Security Council sanctions by North Korea,” according to a statement from the Embassy.

They added “It is one element of our work for the benefit of security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

The French and German efforts are among the first in Europe to join the UK in sending vessels to the region.

Last week, it was announced that the HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to sail to the region in the Summer.

Chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nick Carter announced that China represents a “strategic challenge” for the UK.

Although he suggested a permanent presence was unlikely, he alluded to the likelihood of “regular episodic activity” from British fleets.

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