According to documents obtained from the Ministry of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act, the British Royal Navy provided training assistance to a Chinese shipping agency amid controversy over Beijing’s territorial expansion, Declassified UK said.
This is the invitation of the attaché of the British Embassy in Beijing, Captain Rupert Hollins addressed to a number of three members of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) to a free five-day course of the British Navy, in September 2015.
At the time, SOA – which currently operates in the Ministry of Natural Resources – was responsible for enforcing the law in “maritime areas under Chinese jurisdiction in order to protect the country’s rights.” More importantly, note Declassified UK, SOA commanded the Chinese Coast Guard whose vessels were involved in two-thirds of the South China Sea clashes. Meanwhile, the coast guard was transferred from SOA to the military police.
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated significantly since 2015 – when Chancellor George Osborne spoke of initiating a “golden decade” in relations between the two countries, in which Britain would become “China’s best partner in the West” – So much so that the British Royal Navy plans to send a patrol vessel to South China, where Beijing is building military bases. Among the most important islands in China’s demarcation line are the Parcel Islands – claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan – and the Spratly Islands, disputed between China, the Philippines and four other countries.
The course offer was addressed to China and 29 other officials from eight Asian countries, including the Philippines, with the costs of the 5 days of training, accommodation and two daily meals borne by the United Kingdom. The course was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the five-star Grand Millennium Hotel and cost £ 28,000.
The course was to cover topics such as “approach operations, fisheries protection and the use of aircraft to support Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), ie areas of water 200 miles from the shores of a country and whose resources it can exploit.” .
SOA officials were to have a degree “equivalent to a lieutenant commander” and “play an active role in protecting their EEZs” – meaning, Declassified notes, that they could be involved in attacks on fishing vessels in the China Sea. South.
That, given that the Chinese coast guard would have used tactics such as threatening fishermen with guns and water cannons against fishing vessels coming near the islands claimed by China. Just weeks before the invitation to the course, the Chinese coast guard harassed a Vietnamese ship near the Paracel Islands, the incident being filmed aboard the latter.
Shortly after the course, Britain demanded to be a “neutral observer” in the UN tribunal arbitrating the China-Philippines sovereignty dispute over the Spratly Islands, in which the Philippines would win.
The Guardian said at the time, according to the Declassified, that the time had given rise to assumptions that “Beijing has asked London to get involved as a potential mediator in the stalemate between China, the Philippines, the Asian nations and even the United States.”
Last week, the British delegate for Asia, Nigel Adams, said in Parliament: “We do not take a position on claims to sovereignty (over the islands). Our commitment is to international law, in particular, to freedom of navigation and overflight. ” Adams said Britain was opposed to “militarizing” the region.
The golden decade began to fall apart in 2018 when the warship HMS Albion sailed near the Paracel Islands on the basis of freedom of navigation, an action considered by the Chinese Foreign Ministry to be “provocative” and an attack on China’s sovereignty. This is despite the fact that the limit of 12 nautical miles from the shore of the maritime sovereignty of a state has not been exceeded.
The British government is currently saying: “As part of the British Royal Navy’s persistent presence in the region, five ships have transited the South China Sea since April 2018, most recently HMS Enterprise, in February. These developments involve defense engagement with regional partners, multilateral exercises and maritime surveillance. “
In July 2020, Declassified notes, The Times claimed that the Royal Navy “outlined plans to deploy one of Britain’s new aircraft carriers in the Far East to play a role in countering an increasingly assertive China.”
Gifts for Huawei
A Declassified investigation also found that in the last two years Chinese military officers have been trained at one of Britain’s most exclusive military academies, the Royal College of Defense Studies (RCDS) in Belgravia, west London.
In 2018, 98 senior soldiers were trained here, more than half of them foreigners, many of them from the armies of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China with bad reputations for respecting human rights.
“Essential” components of RCDS training are “cross-border study tours”, vital for understanding the “prospects for security, stability and prosperity in different regions”, according to the Ministry of Defense. These included visits to China with the support of the British embassy in Beijing. In May 2018, British military officers and their counterparts visited the Schenzen headquarters of technology giant Huawei, with the aim of “understanding high technology, IT and communications technology results, as well as China’s ambitions.”
An information note on the trip suggested that “discussions could include how Huawei gained its reputation” and advised delegates to bring a gift to the host, without specifying what kind.
Seven months after this visit, the head of external intelligence services (MI6) Alex Younger began to question the extent to which Huawei can be trusted for British 5G networks. He then signaled that Britain must decide whether it has no problem with the fact that “these technologies belong to China”. In July 2020, the British government invoked security reasons to abandon Huawei services.
Sam Walton, executive director of the Free Tibet activist group, told Declassified: “SOA training and the British military academy’s gift to Huawei appear as relentless attempts to please key organizations in one of the world’s most abusive human rights countries. .
Huawei in particular has contributed to serious human rights violations in China, including the forced surveillance, incarceration and re-education of Tibetans and Uighurs. The visit and the gift for the company from the military organization contradicts the public claims that the British government is fighting for democracy and human rights. We have to learn from this shameful episode. “
12% of UK commercial shipping passes through the South China Sea. Former British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson announced in February 2019 that in 2021 Britain will send warships “to the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Pacific region”.
According to a statement from the British Ministry of Defense in July this year, no decision has yet been made on the deployment of a warship in the South China Sea. Save the Royal Navy recently noted that it most likely will not happen until May 2021. The United States has assisted Britain in testing the capabilities of HMS Queen Elizabeth, and Marines will also take part in the mission. The Diplomat.