“Flying the flag for Britain and keeping a watch on China...” | G. ALOMAAR

Send a gunboat! This was the cornerstone of Britain´s defence and diplomatic policy in Asia/China more than 150 years ago and once again Britain is sending gunboats to the area. Two small British warships departed for the Pacific and Indian Oceans this week and they will be permanently deployed in the area for the next five years.

It is all part of what the British government describes as “Global Britain.” It is also a complete reversal of government policy. In the late 1960s Britain withdrew its military from “East of Suez” to concentrate on NATO and the North Atlantic. Brexit and the growing importance of China has led for this decision to be reversed.

Obviously, it is just a token force but the two ships represent a massive change in Britain´s defence thinking at a time when the withdrawal from Afghanistan has just been completed. Their role is basically to fly the flag for Britain in a vital part of the world. It will also mean that the Royal Navy becomes a true “Blue water” navy with ships deployed across the globe.

It is amazing how a role has been found for these ships (there are five in total, deployed also in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the South Atlantic). Initially they were built as a stop-gap measure because there was a delay in the construction of new frigates. They are now at the forefront of the military. With limited expenditure Britain now has a global force but China is not impressed by these new gun-boats.