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Britain steers away from US-style South China Sea exercises

2017-10-11 09:23:25       source:The Sydney Morning Herald

October 11, 2017

Britain has no plans to conduct deliberate freedom-of-navigation exercises in the South China Sea, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said.

While Sir Michael said Britain would readily fly and sail through the Straits of Malacca, he was urged by a former junior Tory defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth to take a stronger line against China to reinforce the Five Power defence arrangement. That arrangement includes Australia as well as the UK's principle ally, the US.

At a fringe event on the sidelines of the Tory party conference in Manchester, Fairfax Media asked if Britain would conduct freedom of navigation exercises. Sir Michael said Britain had flown Typhoon aircraft through the South China Sea last year and would do so again but would not conduct exercises as they are a direct challenge to China's territorial claims.

"We will exercise our right of navigation and the Americans have been carrying out specific exercises throughout some of the disputed islands and we're not, we don't have plans to do that," Sir Michael said.

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