Arrival of British warship in Japan boosts efforts to counter China’s growing hegemony in Indo Pacific

Withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan may have given a reason to
Beijing to mock its fierce competitor. But it also means the US is going to
shift its entire Asia focus on China’s backyard now—the South China Sea
and East China sea. In the recent past, the western block has challenged
the authority of China by sending warships in these seas, which China
claims to be its fiefdoms. So far, the US and its allies have protected
Taiwan from the forceful occupation of the island nation by Beijing calling
it an integral part of mainland China. Now, they have hinted at supporting
Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China, which calls it
Diaoyu Islands, has laid a claim of the Senkaku Islands calling it “inherent”
territory. South Korea and Russia also have reservations about the
ownership of the group of islands. The territorial dispute now is
transforming into a global one with the major world powers throwing
their weight behind Japan. This translates into more trouble for China to
prove its superiority which has already been challenged by its

British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived in Japan for a naval
drill for the first time, sending a message of permanent military presence
in the East China sea.1 The move is in accordance with the American and
Japanese intentions of “free and open Indo-Pacific”, which also serve as a
counter mechanism to China’s growing influence in the region.2 Notably,
before coming to Japan, the HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed through the
South China Sea, of which China claims 90 as being under its jurisdiction.
British Commodore Steve Moorhouse said “One of the purposes of this
deployment is to signal the start of a commitment. The prominence of this
region is rising significantly.”

3 Moorhouse sent a clear signal of the
intervention by the UK in case China uses force to occupy Taiwan or the

Senkaku Island. Japan too welcomed the arrival of the UK warship in the
wake of Chinese military incursions in Japanese territory surrounding the
Senkaku Islands. “The visit of the British carrier strike group holds great
significance, to maintain and strengthen a free and open Indo-Pacific, said

Japan’s Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi. China has been at loggerheads
with major countries like India, Japan, Australia as well as small
countries like Indonesia, the Philippines over territorial disputes and
regional superiority in the Indo Pacific.

Despite clear warning from the US, China continues to send its warships
near the Senkaku Islands to back its claim.5 China has been assertive in its
expansion policies while Japan has minced no word about its willingness
to object to it. This has brought both countries to a point of major military
conflict. The US has backed Japan and pledged to help it in case of military
advances by China.6 Patrolling by Chinese vessels in the South China Sea

and South East Sea no more looks like a presence in waters but to
carrying out the exercise to enforce its authority.

In such a scenario, when a minor reason may give China a reason to start
armed clashes, the presence of the British vessel can act as a deterrent.
Earlier this year, France had sent its nuclear submarine to the South
China Sea to convey to Beijing that the sea was not its private property and
highlight the “freedom of navigation” in Indo Pacific. 7 This angered Beijing

but also assured the small South-East Asian nations of international
support against Chinese expansionist policies.

With growing economic strength and military capabilities, China has
adopted too aggressive foreign policies and often resorts to economic or
military coercion if other nation does not follow it. Australia is a classic
example of Chinese ways of economic coercion. This demanded a strong
mechanism to protect small countries from the wrath of Beijing and keep
the Indo Pacific free and open to all. The US has succeeded in forming the
four-nation QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), which acts as a
strong deterrence to China in the Indo-Pacific. “Together, we will continue
to work with allies and partners, including with Australia and India
through the Quad, which has never been stronger, to build the free, open,
accessible, diverse, and thriving Indo-Pacific we all seek,” US President
Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a joint
statement.9 Now, withdrawal from Afghanistan gives the US an
opportunity to focus on more pressing foreign policy issues. And there
cannot be a bigger issue than preventing China from imposing hegemony
and imperialism in Indo Pacific region.







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