Britain plans new naval base in Southeast Asia
LONDON — The South China Morning Post reports that the UK's foreign and defense ministers have said Britain is planning to establish a permanent naval base in Southeast Asia.
The location of the base will likely be in Brunei, although Singapore is also being considered.
According to an opinion piece in the Washington Examiner, establishing a naval base in Brunei would allow the UK to support the Americans in "corralling Chinese forces" by limiting their movement and offering force replenishment.
They can also provide strike power by deploying Astute-class submarines at the base.
Powerful torpedos and a high-capability sonar system allows the submarines to "complement U.S. Virginia-class counterparts in threatening the enemy while unseen."
Brunei is already host to a British Army base, where an infantry battalion of Royal Gurkha Rifles are stationed, along with an Army Air Corps Flight of Bell 212 helicopters.
The Asia Times reports that according to a British Ministry of Defence document, a Franco-British carrier strike group may also be deployed in the early 2020s.
The UK's HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, and France's Charles de Gaulle will rotate as the formation's primary warship.
The move is set to complement Washington's strategy of asserting freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in the South China Sea.
But Beijing will likely see it as a threat, especially since the country claims the entire South China Sea as its own, and has militarized several disputed islands in the region.
Tensions between Beijing and London were inflamed after a British warship sailed close to the Paracels in September — a gesture regarded by China as hostile.
The planned base has already been called 'muscle-flexing' by one Chinese professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
But support for the U.S. aside, Britain may have other reasons for pushing its plan.
According to CNN, a naval base in Asia may also serve as a 'showroom' for military hardware and could result in big arms deals that would benefit the UK's post-Brexit economy.