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British warship to sail through disputed South China Sea

AFP  |  Sydney 

A British warship will sail from through the disputed next month to assert freedom of navigation rights, a said today in a move likely to irk

claims nearly all of the resource-rich waterway and has been turning reefs and islets into islands and installing military facilities such as runways and equipment on them.

British said HMS Sutherland, an anti-submarine frigate, would arrive in later this week.

"She'll be sailing through the (on the way home) and making it clear our has a right to do that," he told The Australian newspaper after a two-day visit to and

He would not say whether the frigate would sail within 12 nautical miles of a disputed territory or artificial island built by the Chinese, as US ships have done.

But he said: "We absolutely support the US approach on this, we very much support what the US has been doing."

In January, said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had "violated" its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the

Williamson said it was important that US allies such as Britain and "assert our values" in the Sea, which is believed to hold vast and through which USD 5.0 trillion in trade passes annually.

"World dynamics are shifting so greatly. The US can only concentrate on so many things at once," he said.

"The US is looking for other countries to do more. This is a great opportunity for the UK and Australia to do more, to exercise leadership."

China in December defended its construction on disputed islands, which are also claimed by Southeast Asian neighbours, as "normal" after a US think tank released new satellite images showing the deployment of radar and other equipment.

In a separate interview with broadcaster ABC, Williamson warned of the need for vigilance to "any form of malign intent" from China, as it seeks to become a global superpower.

"Australia and Britain see China as a country of great opportunities, but we shouldn't be blind to the ambition that China has and we've got to defend our national security interests," he said.

"We've got to ensure that any form of malign intent is countered and we see increasing challenges -- it's not just from China, it's from Russia, it's from -- and we've got to be constantly making sure that our security measures, our critical national infrastructure is protected."

Australia has been ratcheting up the rhetoric against China in recent months, with ties tested in December when parliament singled out as a focus of concern when it proposed laws on foreign interference.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, February 13 2018. 08:05 IST