The United Kingdom and Australia are discussing plans for Britain’s biggest ever warship to be deployed to the Pacific alongside Australians navy.
The Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met on Friday with British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson as well as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Edinburg, Scotland.
The four discussed the deployment of UK aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth – the largest ship ever built for the Royal Navy – to the Pacific amid growing Chinese activity in the region.
Williamson said at a joint press conference that they are “hoping and going to work together [with Australians] on deploying HMS Queen Elizabeth to the Pacific and hopefully sailing side by side with Australian vessels.”
“We want to make sure that everyone around the world understands that these two great nations are the greatest of allies,” he added.
Williamson said the HMS Queen Elizabeth deployment may include a “freedom of navigation” exercise in the South China Sea. Beijing claims sovereignty over the South China Sea and considers foreign military presence there as “provocation.”
Williamson said there was an increasing “submarine threat” in the North Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.
Britain’s new foreign secretary Hunt also said that the UK was increasing its diplomatic presence in the Pacific, opening new embassies in Pacific nations.
He further said that the close relationship with Australia was “not just based on [the] ‘you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’ kind of transactional relationships that are so common in international diplomacy.”
Referring to what he described as challenges in international “norms and conventions” in the Pacific region, the Australian foreign minister said, “At such a critical juncture in world affairs, we feel it is vital for like-minded nations to join together to promote peace and stability.”
“We couldn’t be more delighted that the UK will be taking an increasing role in the Indo-Pacific,” Bishop added.