By Caden Pearson
Australia is joining forces with the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, and the Netherlands for naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific in a show of strength that an expert says marks the UK’s return as a global maritime power as it seeks to protect its interest in the face of an expansionist China.
The U.S. and UK defence secretaries co-signed the UK-US Joint Declaration for the Carrier Strike Group 2021 deployment on Jan. 19.
An Australian Department of Defence spokesperson told The Epoch Times that it welcomed the upcoming Indo-Pacific deployment by the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group and said advanced planning is underway to determine how the navies can train together during the deployment.
“Australia and the United Kingdom share a unique relationship based on shared history and values, with both nations committed to a rules-based international order that supports economic growth, security and prosperity,” a Defence spokesperson said.
“The Royal Australian Navy routinely seeks to train with partner navies to build interoperability, share mariner skills and enhance professional ties in the region, particularly in this case with the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier.”
Further details of Australia’s involvement are yet to be confirmed.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group will be joined by personnel from the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy. It will include a detachment of the Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft and the Navy’s destroyer, USS The Sullivans.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “I am delighted that the UK now possesses a 21st century Carrier Strike capability, which has been greatly assisted by the unswerving support and cooperation of the United States at all levels over the past decade.
“This deployment embodies the strength of our bilateral ties and reflects the depth and breadth of this vital defence and security partnership,” he said.
The UK-led carrier strike group comes amid a sweeping review of the UK’s foreign policy dubbed “the most radical assessment of the UK’s place in the world since the end of the Cold War.”
It also comes as the island nation sets out a new approach to warfighting in its Integrated Operating Concept 2025, which the UK government calls “the most significant change in UK military thought in several generations.”
Robert Clark, a defence fellow at the London-based think tank the Henry Jackson Society, said the UK is changing to a forward-deployed posture as it seeks to return as a power on the international seas to protect its interests in the face of an increasingly expansionist Chinese regime.
“Increased opportunities also comes with increased risk and challenge is associated with those risks, not least is the role in which an increasingly expansionist China, and the PLA Navy, in particular, are militarising the vital sea lanes in the South China Sea,” he said during a live-streamed panel hosted by the Henry Jackson Society on the UK’s maritime policy.
“How the UK-led carrier strike group will deal with these challenges posed by an assertive PLA Navy will shape future deployments and set conditions of naval policy going forwards,” he said.
Clark also said the upcoming deployment was a triumph for the Royal Navy and the UK.
“This deployment physically demonstrates how the UK armed forces will operate in shaping a truly global Britain,” Clark said.
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