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Chinese paper says UK trying to grab attention with South China Sea mission

From Reuters - February 13, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) - Britains Defence Ministry is trying to justify its existence and grab attention with a planned mission by a British warship to the disputed South China Sea next month, a Chinese newspaper said on Wednesday.

A British warship will sail through the South China Sea to assert freedom-of-navigation rights, British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in remarks published on Tuesday during a visit to Australia.

British officials first flagged the voyage six months ago and the journey is likely to stoke tensions with China, who claim control of most of the area and have built military facilities on land features in the sea.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the energy-rich sea through which billions of dollars in trade pass each year.

The widely read state-run tabloid the Global Times said Williamson needed to state clearly the purpose of the mission.

If not provocation, the Royal Navy should behave modestly when passing through the South China Sea, it said in editorials published in its English and Chinese-language editions.

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