Britain will permanently deploy two warships in the Indo-Pacific after the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier strike group visits Japan in September, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced during his visit to Japan.
Wallace made the announcement at a joint press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday (July 20) following talks with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.
“Following the completion of the first deployment of the carrier strike group, from later this year the UK will permanently deploy two warships based in the region,” Wallace said.
According to figures released by the Royal Navy, the 3.1 billion pound ($4.2 billion) HMS Queen Elizabeth is 280 meters long and 70 meters wide, with a deck area the size of three standard soccer fields, and is the largest ship in British naval history in terms of tonnage. With a displacement of 65,000 tons, the ship has an integrated all-electric propulsion system and a maximum speed of 25 knots.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and her escort fleet are currently en route to the Indo-Pacific and will pass through the South China Sea, over which China claims most of its sovereignty.
The British Defense Secretary’s visit to Japan and the subsequent call of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s aircraft carrier to Japan mark a further deepening of Britain’s military and security ties with Japan. Japan has recently become increasingly uncomfortable with China’s aggressive posture on the South China Sea, East China Sea and Taiwan.
Wallace and Nobuo Kishi both said at a press conference that they “strongly oppose” attempts to change the status quo by force in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
At the press conference, Nobuo Kishi said that after the Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group arrives in Japan in September, the Queen Elizabeth carrier will berth at the U.S. base in Yokosuka, which is also the home port of the USS Ronald Reagan. The other escorts of the Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group will berth at other Japanese military ports.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group escorts include two destroyers, two frigates, one U.S. destroyer, one Dutch frigate, as well as two support ships and one submarine. The Queen Elizabeth carrier carries 18 F-35B vertical takeoff and landing stealth fighters, 10 of which are from the U.S. Marine Corps.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group departed on May 22 this year for a seven-month global voyage and will cross the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans to the Pacific Ocean, covering a total of 48,000 kilometers. The main task of the carrier strike group is to visit Japan and other countries, especially to hold exchanges and joint exercises with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, in addition to carrying out “freedom of navigation” operations with the U.S. military when passing through the South China Sea.
To highlight Britain’s growing interest and involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, Wallace also revealed at a press conference in Tokyo that Britain will eventually deploy a coastal rapid reaction force in the Indo-Pacific region, which will include marines trained in evacuation and counter-terrorism.
Nobuo Kishi said that Japan and Britain share the same strategic vision and are willing to unite in response, which is essential to ensure peace and stability in the region and the international community, while Wallace noted that it is a common task for both countries to stand up for the values shared by Britain and Japan.