Britain’s plan to build a new military base in Southeast Asia is likely to further complicate the strategic landscape in a region already fraught with maritime disputes and geopolitical rivalry between Beijing and Washington, Chinese analysts warn.
The plan was unveiled by British defense secretary Gavin Williamson during an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, with possible sites including Singapore and Brunei.
If it goes ahead, the move could cast a shadow over China’s relations with its Asian neighbours and would risk further inflaming tensions between Beijing and London after a British warship sailed close to the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, according to the experts.
“It is clearly a muscle-flexing gesture targeting China and shows closer engagement of external powers in the South China Sea disputes,” said Xu Liping, a professor at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Williamson said Britain would open two new military bases in “a couple of years”, including one in the Caribbean, saying it would help the country to return as a “true global player” after Brexit.
“This is our biggest moment as a nation since the end of the second world war, when we can recast ourselves in a different way, we can actually play the role on the world stage that the world expects us to play,” he was quoted as saying.
Responding to news of the plan, Xu Liping, a professor at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the South China Morning Post: “It is clearly a muscle-flexing gesture targeting China and shows closer engagement of external powers in the South China Sea disputes.”