British aircraft carrier’s overseas debut in the Asia Pacific arouses “gunboat diplomacy” vigilance.

On May 1, local time, the British aircraft carrier “Queen Elizabeth” left Portsmouth Naval Base and went to Scotland to participate in exercises. The “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier battle group has set off for a long journey to the Asia-Pacific region on May 22, with a mission period of up to 7 months. Photo courtesy of People’s China

After more than a year of propaganda, I have enjoyed the cheering and splendor of the Queen and the Prime Minister personally boarding the ship, carrying the British Navy’s “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier battle group, which has the dream of revitalizing the former “empire that never sets the sun”, local time May 22 Japan set off for the Asia-Pacific to implement its first ocean-going deployment. According to the British Ministry of Defence, the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier battle group’s maiden voyage to Asia is the most significant overseas dispatch of naval and air forces to the United Kingdom. It will help the United Kingdom to deepen contacts with the Indo-Pacific region, especially in international affairs. “Playa more critical role in affairs.

It is reported that in the 28-week deployment operation, the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier battle group will cross the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea, and then sail from the Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea, then north to the Western Pacific, and finally return to the United Kingdom. . During the period, they will visit 40 countries including India, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, and participate in more than 70 activities, including participating in counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Syria, keeping abreast of French aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean, and holding joint military exercises with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, etc.

Many British media confirmed that the British aircraft carrier would enter the South China Sea by then but will not sail across the Taiwan Strait. British Prime Minister Johnson stated in a radio speech on the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier on May 21 that the deployment was “full of confidence but not seeking confrontation” and “do not want to be an enemy of anyone.” But observers have noticed that since the aircraft carrier officially entered service in 2017, many British government officials, including former British Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon, and much British media have repeatedly hyped the aircraft carrier formation to come to the South China Sea; to “touch porcelain.” The British “Financial Times” recently published a high-profile title “Challenge China, Britain will test’warship diplomacy’ after Brexit.” It also deliberately avoided “historical burden” without using the term “gunboat diplomacy.”

The symbolic meaning of the aircraft carrier’s long journey is greater than the actual meaning.

As the largest displacement surface warship built in British history, and the current most potent warship of the British Navy, the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier is the stance to sail to the Asia-Pacific. The purpose of “existence” is obvious. British Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace once said, “When our aircraft carrier battle group sets sail, the flag of the global Britain’ will fly high. This demonstrates our strength and influence and brings us closer to our friends. , And also reiterated our commitment to solving current and future security challenges”, “We have to prove to the world in more than half a year that the U.K. is not regressing, but advancing, and will play a role in shaping the international system of the 21st century. Positive effects”.

The so-called “Global Britain” is the concept put forward by the United Kingdom after the end of the 2016 “Brexit” referendum. The purpose is to hedge against the adverse effects of “Brexit” and reshape the U.K.’s leading position on the global stage. As the Asia-Pacific region has gradually become the world’s most potential economic sector and an essential engine for world economic growth, its geostrategic importance has become increasingly prominent. The U.K. has also increased its involvement in the Asia-Pacific region Indo-Pacific regions. In the report on foreign affairs, defense, and security policies released in March of this year, the United Kingdom clarified the strategic approach of “turning to the Indo-Pacific” and believed that the region is becoming the center of the world’s geopolitics. The military means of sending aircraft carriers to cruise in the Asia-Pacific region has become an essential part of Britain’s “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific region.

This is the first time Britain has sent an aircraft carrier battle group of this size overseas since the Falklands War broke out with Argentina in 1982. However, the current comprehensive strength of the British Navy seems to be difficult to support its “Global Britain” strategic attempt. The carrier-based aircraft is the core strike force of the aircraft carrier. Still, according to public information, the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier, which initially claimed to be capable of carrying up to 36 F-35B fighters, eventually carried only 18 aircraft, of which only eight were from the Royal Navy. The U.S. Marine Corps deployed the other 10. To enhance the escort strength of the British aircraft carrier battle group, the United States and the Netherlands also provided an air defense warship. Military observers believe that a question mark should also be drawn on the true combat capability of the aircraft carrier brigade composed of the three countries.

All parties generally believe that the symbolic meaning of the “power display” of the British aircraft carrier’s voyage is greater than the actual meaning. For example, a naval expert bluntly said that the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier battle group’s journey to the Asia-Pacific is more like a “face-saving project” used by the United Kingdom, which has lost its status as a “master of the sea”, to show its identity. Lord Peter Ricketts, a former British national security adviser, also said, “This is a diplomatic arena, not a military strategy.”

Dancing with the United States, but also avoiding being completely tied to an American tank

To help the United States to implement the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” and to hold the American thighs tightly on weapons and equipment, the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier’s long journey has manifested Britain’s determination to strengthen relations with the United States as an ally of the United States in many ways. In addition to the 10 U.S. fighter jets and one escorting U.S. air defense warship on board the aircraft carrier, 250 U.S. Marines were accompanied by the more than 1,700 personnel on board the aircraft carrier. The “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier supply base was set in Japan. Naval experts analyzed that it was also because the U.S. Seventh Fleet Command had a naval base in Yokosuka, Japan.

A “coincidence” that deserves attention is that almost at the same time as the departure of the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier, the U.S. “Reagan” aircraft carrier left the port of Yokosuka, Japan, and began its new annual deployment. The American “Diplomat” magazine pointed out that after Britain’s “Brexit”, it has placed more emphasis on the traditional “special relationship” between Britain and the United States, hoping to rely on the United States to maintain or even elevate its global status. An aircraft carrier following the United States to cruise the Asia-Pacific is a “rare opportunity” for Britain to enhance its international position.

Judging from the routes and activities of the “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier this cruise, in addition to cooperating with the United States and Japan to carry out joint military exercises, the United Kingdom also specifically stated that it would participate in the commemoration of the “Five National Defenses” in the Pacific with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. To arrange the exercise for the 50th anniversary. Military expert Du Wenlong analyzed that this shows that Britain has its arrangements and measures. Britain knows in its heart that this aircraft carrier formation is not here to fight, and the actual combat capability is not strong; if it acts per the strategic will of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, such as “breaking into the territorial waters” and other cross-line actions, it will easily anger related countries such as China. , Thus putting oneself in a dangerous situation.

This can also explain why many British media deliberately released high-profile news in their reports that the “Queen Elizabeth” will not pass through the Taiwan Strait on its way to Japan this time but will pass through the east coast of Taiwan. “Foreign Policy” magazine website analysis believes that this reflects that the current U.K. has not yet straightened out its position in the strategic competition between China and the United States and has fallen into a position dilemma on the issue of China.

Asia-Pacific is not a place to relive the “old dream of empire.”

Britain ostensibly flaunts the banner of “regional peace and stability,” but the once colonial empire “returns” to the Asia-Pacific with great fanfare. It is destined to add military uncertainty to the regional situation and create more tension in the region. As an extraterritorial country, the last time Britain sent an aircraft carrier to the “Indo-Pacific region”, also dates back to the “Ocean Wave 97” voyage operation. That mission was only to retrieve Prince Charles and Prince Charles from Hong Kong, who participated in the handover ceremony of Hong Kong’s return to China. Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong.

In response to related questions, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesperson emphasized that today’s world is no longer the world of a hundred years ago, and China today is not the China of a hundred years ago. The South China Sea should not become a sea of ​​games between great powers and a sea of ​​gunboats. Countries from outside the region traveled to the South China Sea to show off their strength, stir up incidents, and create tensions. These are the fundamental reasons for the “militarization” of the South China Sea. The Chinese military will take necessary measures to defend national sovereignty, security, and development interests resolutely and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Today, the secession crisis within the U.K. is intensifying, and economic recovery still faces many challenges. Analysts pointed out that British politicians should ask themselves, thoroughly reflect on and abandon the colonial mentality and old dreams of empire, and think carefully about the “post-Brexit era” and “post-epidemic era” path”.

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