United Kingdom

China accuses Britain of 'harbouring evil intentions' after Royal Navy voyage through Taiwan Strait

China today accused Britain of 'harbouring evil intentions' after a Royal Navy frigate made a rare voyage through the sensitive Taiwan Strait. 

Beijing claims it 'followed and warned' HMS Richmond as it sailed through the 110-mile wide passage on its way to Vietnam.

While US warships make an almost monthly voyage through the Strait, its allies have been more reluctant to follow suit.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has stepped up military and political pressure to try and force the democratically-ruled island to accept Chinese sovereignty.  

Tensions in the South China Sea have been ratcheted further by a new security pact between Australia, the UK and the US, which many view as part of a strategy to counter Chinese aggression in the region. 

Beijing claimed today it 'followed and warned' HMS Richmond (pictured in Portsmouth) as it sailed through the Taiwan Strait. The waters are international but China claims them as its own

On Monday, the official Twitter account for HMS Richmond, posted a picture of the boat navigating the Strait. It said: 'After a busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea, we are now en route through the Taiwan Strait to visit #Vietnam and the Vietnam People's Navy. #CSG21 International by design.' 

Beijing claims it 'followed and warned' HMS Richmond as it sailed through the 110-mile wide passage on its way to Vietnam. 

Last week, 19 Chinese warplanes stormed into Taiwanese airspace in an apparent show of strength amid the bitter war of words from Beijing over the Aukus pact.  

Fighter jets were scrambled to turn the aircraft back while radio warnings were also broadcast and missile defence systems activated to monitor the situation.  

As well as Taiwan, China lays claims to several smaller islands in the South China Sea, pitting itself against smaller neighbours like the Philippines and Vietnam, which rely on the US and its allies for military support. 

On Monday, the official Twitter account for HMS Richmond, posted a picture of the boat navigating the Strait.

It said: 'After a busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea, we are now en route through the Taiwan Strait to visit #Vietnam and the Vietnam People's Navy. #CSG21 International by design.'

It had been deployed in the East China Sea while taking part in United Nations sanctions enforcement operations against North Korea. 

The Twitter post appeared to have sparked fury from Beijing-loyal bots and Communist apologists on the social media site who accused Britain of 'colonialism.'

The People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theatre Command said it has organised air and naval forces to follow Richmond and warn her.

'This kind of behaviour harbours evil intentions and damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,' it said. 'Theatre command forces always maintain a high level of alert and resolutely counter all threats and provocations.'

Last month, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, first sea lord and chief of naval staff, reiterated that it was 'very clear that the Taiwan Strait is international waters.' 

'It is a waterway that can be used by different nations,' he told Nikkei Asia.  

China lays claim to numerous islands in the South China Sea, pitting itself against smaller neighbours like the Philippines and Vietnam 

Relations between Beijing and London are already strained over a long list of issues, from trade to human rights.

In Taipei, Taiwan Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng did not comment directly when asked about the British warship, saying he did not know what missions foreign ships in the Taiwan Strait were carrying out.

'When they pass through the Taiwan Strait our nation's military will have a grasp of the situation, but will not interfere,' he told reporters, adding they keep a close watch on all movements near Taiwan.

China has been ramping up its exercises around Taiwan and flies air force aircraft almost daily into the southwestern part of Taiwan's air defence zone.

Tensions in the South China Sea have been ratcheted further by a new security pact between Australia, the UK and the US, which many view as part of a strategy to counter Chinese aggression in the region. As part of the deal, the US and the UK will supply nuclear submarine tech to the Australians 

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