The South China Sea is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and almost five trillion dollars’ worth of trade passes through this area. The sea also has a string of islands and is supposed to be rich in minerals and natural resources. The Chinese claim almost 90 percent of the South China Sea and they have taken de facto control of many island chains in the sea as well as reclaimed many islands and erected military facilities including runways to operate fighter aircraft. The USA has not recognized China’s claim to the sea and has been regularly conducting “Freedom Of Navigation” exercises in the disputed sea.

The British foreign secretary Boris Johnson has issued a statement on his visit to Australia that the UK would send two aircraft carriers into the SC Sea to establish freedom of navigation. He rejected Beijing’s claim to the entire SC Sea. The defense secretary did not specify any date as to when the carriers would enter the South China Sea, CNN International reported.

China and the South China Sea

The Chinese seized control of the SC Sea under the nose of the USA which for years did not give the SC Sea the importance it deserved. The peripheral countries like Brunei, Vietnam, Philippines, and Japan also claim parts of the Ocean and the Philippines with the backing of the USA had approached the International Tribunal at The Hague which ruled against China but the Chinese have rejected the court's verdict and have taken most of the ocean by force.

The peripheral countries are too weak to oppose China and now it has been left to the USA to retrieve the situation.

Johnson’s threat

Johnson emphasized the deployment of the UK's carriers - Hms Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales - was only to uphold the rule of law and not because the British had enemies in the region. China has slammed the British move to deploy its carriers.

Both the carriers are years away from being operational and HMS Queen Elizabeth has just started sea trials while the warship Prince of Wales is under construction. In view of this, the statement by the British foreign secretary is more like an empty boast.

The future

The fact is, the West was sleeping when China established de facto control over the Ocean and whatever action the USA and the UK take the status quo can never be restored. President Duterte an acerbic critic of America had asked pointedly, why the USA did not send five aircraft carriers to the SC Sea and nip the trouble in the bud. There is no answer to this question.