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China: Warships

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN 727, tabled on 12 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of China's three new naval vessels; and what steps he is taking to support the UK's interests in the Pacific Ocean.

Answered on

18 May 2021

We continue to watch closely the rapid growth in Chinese naval capabilities and their impact on the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

China is set to have as many as five aircraft carriers by 2030, as well as four light helicopter carriers and is supported by growing fleet of high-class cruiser destroyers, which are the world's most capable surface ships. This allows China to conduct operations from increased range and project influence further into the Pacific and beyond, potentially restricting freedom of movement for UK and allied vessels. This has been enhanced by China's construction of fortified military bases on contested islands and enormous investment in anti-ship missiles.

The Indo-Pacific is at the centre of global economic growth, and a region of increasing geostrategic importance; it is the fastest-growing economic region in the world, a crucial transit point for global trade and home to a number of UK allies and trading partners.

The UK has a range of enduring security interests in the region and many important bilateral defence relationships. The Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment is a sign of the UK's commitment to upholding international peace and security to ensure the prosperity of the UK and of our partners in the region. The deployment demonstrates the UK's state of the art capabilities, able to operate worldwide; no nation should feel antagonised.

Our approach to the Indo Pacific region will of course take account of regional dynamics including China's role and our partners and allies' investment in the region. But our wide-ranging relationships with partners and allies across this region also stand in their own right as a broad, positive, long term set of priorities for UK investment and engagement.