CSG21

Was Carrier Strike Group right to 'assert the law' in Indo-Pacific region?

Analysts are speculating that the UK should expect increased Chinese maritime activity as the Strike Group sails into fresh waters.

The UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) is heading home after a four-month mission to project Britain's power and influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Led by the £3.3bn aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, CSG21 has sailed more than 32,000 nautical miles, working with the UK's allies.

However, potential adversaries displayed some negativity to the UK's foray into the region, with a rebuke from China being garnered during the mission.

In September, Royal Navy warship HMS Richmond sailed through the Taiwan Strait – prompting China to accuse Britain of engaging in behaviour that "harbours evil intentions".

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In response to the Chinese claims surrounding the conflict over the waters, defence analyst Professor Michael Clarke said: "Those areas are sensitive but they are legally open waters.

"The British say 'Look, you haven't just got to object, you have got to persistently object. You must not behave as if you believe a little bit of their claim, we don't believe any of their claim'.

"It's very important to conduct freedom of navigation operations to show that the innocent passage of ships... will go on regardless.

"Some commentators have said this is provocative, what the British say is 'no, it's not provocative, we are just asserting the law'."

Beijing has complained of the destabilising influence of the Carrier Strike Group, and to the home audience, claimed the exit of the CSG from the region is down to Chinese warships seeing them off.

Analysts have been quick to speculate that the UK should expect to see increased Chinese maritime activity as the CSG sails into fresh waters.

Watch: Why is the UK interested in the Indo-Pacific region?

The Carrier Strike Group is set for a busy autumn as it prepares for the return journey of the deployment through the Indo-Pacific, Middle East and the Mediterranean.

They are due to visit India for joint maritime exercises and other engagements before heading to the Gulf.