Sir John Major Credit BFBS 130619
World

Former PM Sir John Major Warns US Trade War With China Could Spark Military Conflict

The warning came as the former prime minister opened the annual London Conference of the Chatham House think tank.

Sir John Major Credit BFBS 130619

A former British prime minister says he fears the United States trade war with China could escalate into military conflict if the two powers do not reach an agreement.

Sir John Major says if the dispute over trade is not solved it may "sour relationships" between the two countries.

The UK is set to send its new aircraft carrier to the South China Sea, as part of a NATO readiness task force.

US President Donald Trump has been spearheading trade talks with China and on Monday said he is ready to hit the country with more tariffs if he and President Xi Jinping fail to come to a deal later this month at a summit in Japan.

Speaking at Chatham House in London, Sir John Major said: "China is spending a great deal of money on particularly its naval capacity and on its sub-ocean capacity - certainly far more than it admits to in its budgets."

He further cited China's actions in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been building artificial Islands in disputed waters to use as military bases.

They are claimed as Chinese territory but other nations say the waters are international.

Mr Major added: "Their growing economic power is magnifying their political power and their economic power is financing a growing military capability."

But he insisted he "doesn't know" whether these factors could inflict conflict in the future, but added it "might".

"I don't know whether that comes to a military standoff at some stage in the future - it might well.

"I don't think that is imminent because China has too many internal problems, in my judgment, to look for external disputes with the United States," he added.

The US recently sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait as a show of force a day before joint Russian and Chinese military exercises.