UK’s Johnson to China: We Believe in the ‘Law of the Sea’

The UK is deploying its new aircraft carrier to the Indo-Pacific where it is expected to sail through the South China Sea to send a message to Beijing

The UK is sending its new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the Indo-Pacific region this month to send a message to Beijing. On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the deployment will show China that the UK believes in the “international law of the sea.”

The US and its allies have been accusing China of threatening the so-called “rules-based order.” One example the West points to is Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, which the US challenges with dangerous military provocations by frequently sailing warships near Chinese-controlled islands.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to sail through the South China Sea while in the region. The aircraft carrier will be leading a large naval strike group that will be the largest British Navy deployment since the 1982 Falklands War. A US Navy destroyer will also join the British ships.

Sending such a large naval flotilla to challenge China is a provocative move, but Johnson insists it is not meant to be antagonistic. “One of the things we’ll be doing clearly is showing to our friends in China that we believe in the international law of the sea, and in a confident but not a confrontational way, we will be vindicating that point,” he said.

Considering the view from Beijing, a large naval deployment to the region is reminiscent of the Opium Wars in the mid-1800s, which led to the UK carving out Hong Kong as a colony.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.