London has of late joined Washington in deepening its security ties with Japan, now on Tuesday announcing it plans to permanently deploy a pair of warships in southeast Asian waters off Japan at a moment tensions with China over Taiwan and other contested islands are at their highest in years.
The permanent deployment is to be launched after the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and its strike group sail to Japan in September. This after it joins other allies including the US and Australia in conducting a series of multinational exercises in the Philippine Sea this August, according to a defense ministry statement this week.
Britain's Defense Minister Ben Wallace unveiled that the UK will keep two warships in the region while in Tokyo meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi. "Following on from the strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the region from later this year," he said.
The Elizabeth is carrying F-35B stealth jets, and is currently escorted by two destroyers, two frigates, and two support vessels. Likely further provoking Beijing are plans to eventually deploy UK marines to the region as a rapid response counter-terror force.
As Reuters reports: "In a further sign of Britain’s growing regional engagement, Wallace, who traveled to Japan with a delegation of military commanders, said Britain would also eventually deploy a Littoral Response Group, a unit of marines trained to undertake missions including evacuations and anti-terrorism operations."
For every move on the part of the US and UK which China sees as an escalation, there's a PLA military response, with a week ago Beijing saying it "drove away" a US warship deemed "illegally" in Chinese waters near the disputed Paracel islands.
Earlier this summer China warned the Western allies - specifically the US, UK, and NATO that its military will not "sit by and do nothing" if "challenges" arise. No doubt Beijing will see any new US and UK 'permanent' military deployment off Japan as a significant challenge.