HMS Queen Elizabeth displays 'global Britain' says Moorhouse
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Japan’s defence minister, Nobuo Kishi, and senior Japanese military commanders were shown around the stunning aircraft carrier, walking between F-35B stealth fighters on the deck as Royal Navy officers explained how the jets launched from the ramp at the bow. Commodore Steve Moorhouse told a briefing on the $4.15billion ship: “One of the purposes of this deployment is to signal the start of a commitment.
“The prominence of this region is rising significantly.”
Japan, which also plans to fly short-takeoff and vertical-landing F-35Bs from two converted helicopter carriers, is trying to broaden security cooperation beyond its US ally to try to help it reign in Chinese influence it believes threatens the region, including the independence of Taiwan.
Japan, in a recent defence strategy paper, identified neighbouring China as its main national security threat and said it has a “sense of crisis” regarding Taiwan as Chinese military activity around the island intensifies.
Mr Kishi told reporters after his visit to the HMS Queen Elizabeth: “The visit of the British carrier strike group holds great significance, to maintain and strengthen a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
A close US ally, Japan hosts the biggest concentration of American military forces outside the United States, including the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, aircraft and thousands of Marines.
China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province, says its intentions in the region are peaceful.
Leading two destroyers, two frigates, a submarine and two support ships, the HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail from Britain in May and has sailed through waters including the contested South China Sea, of which China claims 90 percent, before arriving in Japan on Saturday, the furthest port call on its maiden deployment.
It has been joined by a US destroyer and a frigate from the Dutch navy, and is also carrying U.S. F-35Bs, which fly alongside British stealth jets.
After the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group returns, two warships will continue the British presence in the region, as the UK looks for a bigger world presence following its departure from the European Union.
While docked in Yokosuka, which is the home of the USS Ronald Reagan, Washington’s only forward deployed carrier, the Queen Elizabeth will also host visits from executives from leading Japanese companies as post-Brexit Britain looks to drum up business deals.
The news comes as Australia’s treasurer says Canberra must diversify from reliance on China.
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Australia must diversify its economy to rely less on China, its largest trading partner, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
He warned businesses to brace for new tensions with Beijing.
Australia’s relations with China soured after it banned Huawei from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and cooled further after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19, first reported in China last year.
Beijing responded by imposing tariffs on Australian commodities, including barley, wine and grapes.
Mr Frydenberg said in a speech in Canberra: “It is no secret that China has recently sought to target Australia’s economy.”
“Heightened strategic competition is the new reality we face, now and likely into the future.”
Mr Frydenberg said businesses should look at new markets, which have been opened as a result of recent free trade agreements.
Australia’s A$2trillion economy is at risk of entering its second recession in as many years as its largest states are in prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns.
Despite the diplomatic tensions, exports to China hit a record A$19.4 billion in the 12 months to July 31, up 72 percent from the prior 12-month period on the back of strong iron ore demand.
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