British carrier plans jettison China trip

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 18 Feb 2019

Britain's Finance Minister Philip Hammond has reportedly been forced to cancel a trip to China after plans to send a new aircraft carrier to the Pacific angered Beijing.

Hammond was set to visit China for trade talks with senior government figures, but has axed the trip after Beijing reacted angrily to news of the warship's planned deployment, British media reports said.

Although the visit was not formally announced by London, it had been under preparation for many weeks, reports said.

Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson announced last Monday that the first mission of Britain's new 3.1 billion (HK$31.37 billion) aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth would include the Pacific region. He said adversaries were challenging "the rules-based international order" while noting that "China is developing its modern military capability and its commercial power."

The comments reportedly provoked anger in Beijing as well as consternation in British government departments eager to foster closer relations with China.

Williamson said American F35s would be embedded alongside British planes on the carrier's air wing, "enhancing the reach and lethality of our forces."

Hammond had been expected to meet Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua.

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