HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea 190521 CREDIT MOD 2.jpeg
CSG21

HMS Queen Elizabeth Enters Disputed Waters Of South China Sea On CSG21

The British aircraft carrier and its strike group have entered the disputed waters for the next phase of their journey.

HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea 190521 CREDIT MOD 2.jpeg

HMS Queen Elizabeth has entered the South China Sea with her Carrier Strike Group after completing its passage through the Singapore Strait.

The UK-led Strike Group is on a 28-week deployment, covering 26,000 nautical miles including passages through the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea.

The South China Sea is one of the most important legs of that journey, as its strategic location makes it a passing point for what is estimated to be a third of the world's maritime shipping, including the maritime crude oil trade.

The region has its share of disputes, often seeing territorial disagreements over the boundaries of the sea and the region's islands.

China, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam all have an interest in the sea and its related archipelagos.

China claims historic rights to most of the South China Sea and sets its own boundaries with its controversial "nine mark line".

However, this has been challenged by a number of countries, including the Philippines, the United States and Indonesia.

This week US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, added his support for the Royal Navy-led work in the region during a visit to Singapore.

Emphasising the area's importance, he stressed his belief in the power of deterrence and supporting the rule of international maritime law. 

Mr Austin told reporters: "Beijing's claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea has no basis in international law.

Watch: RFA Tidespring refuels HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Defender simultaneously.

"That assertion treads on the sovereignty of the states in the region."

He also had a special mention for the Royal Navy's flagship: "The HMS Queen Elizabeth is sailing through this region as a flagship of a multi-nation carrier strike group that includes a US destroyer and a US Marine Corps F-35 squadron."

The Carrier Strike Group has run into problems on the deployment recently, with a number of positive coronavirus cases.

This included HMS Diamond, which had to detach from CSG21 after also suffering "technical issues".

It left the Royal Navy with only one of six Type 45 destroyers operationally available.

Cover image: NATO Standing Maritime Group with UK Carrier Strike Group in the Eastern Atlantic ocean earlier this year (Picture: MOD).