South China Sea clash ERUPTS: Chinese vessel shadows UK and US carriers in satellite pics | World | News

Chinese military ‘live-fire exercise’ in South China Sea in May

The South China Sea is a highly contested region and faces claims from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Diplomatic relations between the nations are already extremely strained. Over recent months, Beijing has asserted its dominance in the region and has built several military bases on some of the atolls. Satellite images show 

In a show of strength to Beijing, HSM Queen Elizabeth and her carrier group are due to sail through the contested region.

On Monday, the UK Carrier Strike Group 21 entered the region through the Bashi Channel.

Satellite images show the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the US strike group being monitored by Chinese authorities as they entered the South China Sea.

This comes months after Chinese state media warned any vessels which stray too close to islands it lays claims to will be “expelled”.

Chinese vessel shadows UK and US carriers in satellite pics (Image: Getty)

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth (Image: Getty)

A Beijing academic told state media that “China welcomes friends with wine but deals with wolves with a shotgun”.

The UK carrier strike group is currently on a round-the-world tour as part of her maiden voyage.

The vessels have taken part in joint military exercises with several nations.

China’s state mouthpiece Global Times previously warned Beijing will also carry out separate sets of military drills in the sea at the same time.

READ MORE: China LIVE: Beijing accused of sending 52 aircraft to Taiwan airspace

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth (Image: Getty)

An expert told the newspaper in June: “While the Chinese military drills are not likely directly related to the UK warships, they show that the [navy] is at high combat readiness.

“Just like US warships that intruded Chinese islands and reefs in the region, if UK vessels do the same, they will also be expelled.”

A second expert added: “The [navy] will closely monitor the UK warships’ activities, stand ready to deal with any improper acts, and also see this as a chance for practice and for studying the UK’s latest warships up close.”

China’s warning to the UK came after Beijing expelled an American warship after claiming it had illegally entered its territorial waters in the region.

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South China Sea crisis mapped

South China Sea crisis mapped (Image: Express)

Back in May, the Chinese military’s Southern Theatre Command said the USS Curtis Wilbur entered the waters near the Paracel Islands without permission.

It said the US action violated China’s sovereignty and undermined regional peace and stability.

However, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said the vessel “asserted navigational rights and freedoms” near the Paracel Islands, over which China, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim sovereignty.

The Chinese military’s comments were false, it added.

Campaign to stop China's dominance in the region

Campaign to stop China’s dominance in the region (Image: Getty)

This comes after China and Taiwan are on the brink of war after a record-breaking 38 Chinese military planes have been spotted in Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

Taiwan has long been a tense subject for China since a separate government was established on the island following the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and remains an important ally of Western countries.

Fears have erupted over recent months that, under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing will use military force to reunify Taiwan with mainland China.

Back in March, Taiwan requested the name of its mission in the US capital be changed from “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to “Taiwan Representative Office”.

Chinese president Xi Jinping

Chinese president Xi Jinping (Image: Getty)

This move would anger Beijing who claims the self-ruled island is part of its sovereign territory.

According to the Financial Times, seven of Taipei’s missions in countries without diplomatic recognition had “Taiwan” or “Republic of China” removed from their names as they face pressure from Beijing.

In July, Taiwan opened an office in Lithuania called the “Taiwanese Representative Office”.

However, Beijing subsequently recalled its ambassador to Vilnius and ordered Lithuania to recall its ambassador to China.

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