Berlin: On Monday, Germany sent a warship to the South China Sea for the first time in almost two decades, joining other Western nations in expanding their military presence in the region amid growing alarm over China’s territorial ambitions. The South China Sea is claimed by China, which has built military outposts on artificial islands in the waters containing gas fields and rich fishing grounds.
As a show of force against Chinese territorial claims, the U.S. Navy regularly conducts so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ operations in which their ships pass close to some of the contested islands. China has objected to U.S. missions because they promote neither peace nor stability.
Washington has centered its national security policy on countering China and working to rally allies against Beijing’s increasingly coercive economic and foreign policies.
Berlin officials have announced that the German navy will stick to the common trade routes. The frigate is not expected to cross the Taiwan Strait either, another regular U.S. activity Beijing condemns. However, Berlin has made it clear that the mission’s purpose was to make it clear Germany did not accept China’s territorial claims.
Due to China’s emergence as Berlin’s most important trading partner, Germany is walking a tightrope between its security and economic interests. Exports from Germany have helped mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Europe’s biggest economy.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, German Defence Minister, traveled to Wilhelmshaven to see off the frigate Bayern on its seven-month voyage to Australia, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. It will be the first German warship to pass through the South China Sea since 2002 when it crosses the region in mid-December. ‘We want existing law to be respected, sea routes to be freely navigable, open societies to be protected and trade to follow fair rules,’ Kramp-Karrenbauer said.
Several countries, including Britain, France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, have expanded their activities in the Pacific as a response to Chinese influence.