- Gavin Williamson said the move will assert ‘our values’ and right to navigated sea
- Pledge comes after China sent warships to chase other vessels out of waters
- Beijing has seized control of the oil-rich sea and built artificial islands there
Kate Ferguson, Political Correspondent For Mailonline
Gavin Williamson has pledged to send Royal Navy warship HMS Sutherland to sail across the disputed South China Sea in an act of defiance to Beijing.
The Defence Secretary said the anti-submarine frigate would be sent to ‘assert our values’ and international right to navigate the waters.
His vow comes amid ongoing tensions in the resource-rich sea, which China has laid claim to – seizing control of reefs and islats and building artificial islands out of them.
Beijing has tried to drive other countries away from the area and in January dispatched a warship to scare off a US missile destroyer which it said had sailed too close to its territory.
Gavin Williamson has pledged to send Royal Navy warship HMS Sutherland (pictured) to sail across the disputed South China Sea in an act of defiance to Beijing
But speaking on a trip to Australia, Mr Williamson vowed not to be intimidated by China and to send the British ship through the disputed waters after it docked in Down Under.
He said: ‘She’ll be sailing through the South China Sea (on the way home) and making it clear our navy has a right to do that.’
But he said: ‘We absolutely support the US approach on this, we very much support what the US has been doing.’
Mr Williamson said it was important that US allies such as Britain and Australia ‘assert our values’ in the South China Sea.
Speaking to The Australian, he added: ‘World dynamics are shifting so greatly. The US can only concentrate on so many things at once.’
Gavin Williamson, pictured yesterday visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, vowed not to be intimidated by Beijing
Gavin Williamson, pictured meeting his Australian counterpart Marise Payne in Sydney, said the UK must play its part in asserting international sailing rights in the disputed waters
‘The US is looking for other countries to do more. This is a great opportunity for the UK and Australia to do more, to exercise leadership.’
The move comes just a fortnight after Theresa May travelled to China with her husband Philip to hold talks with President Xi Jinping.
She took dozens of Britain’s leading business leaders and several ministers with her for the diplomatic and trade mission.
The mission saw £9 billion worth of trade deals done – including agreements to export Aston Martins across China.