Germany has deployed a warship to Asia that will sail through the disputed South China Sea, as the European country is following the US and other allies to stoke tensions with China in the region.
The German frigate Bayern was deployed for a six-month voyage with 200 soldiers onboard. The ship will make stops in Singapore, South Korea, and Australia. It is expected to sail through the South China Sea in mid-December, which would mark the first German transit through the waters since 2002.
“The message is clear: we are standing up for our values and interests together with our partners and allies. For our partners in the Indo-Pacific, it is a reality that sea routes are no longer open and secure, and that claims to territory are being applied by the law of might is right,” German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said before the ship’s departure.
While Kramp-Karrenbauer’s comments were clearly referencing China’s territorial claims, she said the deployment was not aimed at any one country and added that Germany offered for the warship to visit a Chinese port “in order to maintain dialogue.”
Germany will be the third European country to sail a warship through the South China Sea this year. Last week, the UK sailed its new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its strike group into the disputed waters, and the British have plans to deploy two warships permanently in Asia.
In February, France sent a nuclear-powered submarine and another warship into the South China Sea. France has also stepped up military cooperation in the region, and in May, the US, France, and Japan held their first-ever joint exercises in Japanese territory.
The Biden administration views the cooperation of allies as vital to its anti-China strategy. Europe seems eager to play along, not only with naval provocations but also with sanctions. In March, the EU and the UK joined Washington in sanctioning Chinese officials over allegations in Xinjiang.