The French and British navies are deploying two of their amphibious strike groups to follow in the footsteps of the US Navy and launch their own mission into the disputed territory situated in the South China Sea.
The hostile seaborne military task force, comprising French and British warships and naval aircraft, which will arrive @ the South China Sea next week.
The South China Sea is notable for the trillions of dollars‘ worth of commercial cargo passing through the waterway every year and for the possibility it contains large untapped oil and gas fields.
A slew of nations in the region have overlapping claims on islets and sections of water, including China, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Britain has ordered to deploy the Royal Navy frigates HMS Sutherland and HMS Argyll and amphibious assault warship HMS Albion to the Asian region.
France is no stranger in this volatile theater in the Far East. The announced French initiative may not be so surprising when one recalls that France is also an Asia-Pacific nation with vital interests in the region.
The French colonial aristocrats have concurred territories in the Southern Pacific: French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis & Futuna islands. Combine this to territories in the Indian Ocean (La Reunion, Mayotte, Kerguelen, etc.), and France is also an Indo-Pacific entity.
These overseas territories add to those in the Caribbean’s to give France the world’s second largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (11 million square km) after the USA, 62% of which is located in the Pacific and 24% in the Indian Ocean.
About 1,500,000 French citizens live in the French Indo-Pacific territories (500,000 in the Pacific) besides the 130,000 French nationals in various Asia-Pacific countries.
This explains the permanent presence of 8,000 French military personnel in the Indo-Pacific area (2,800 in the Pacific). In the Pacific area alone, France operates two surveillance frigates, four patrol vessels, two multi-mission ships, five maritime surveillance aircraft, four tactical transport aircraft, and seven helicopters.
France is a major provider of defense equipment in Asia. It has recently inked a deal to provide 12 new submarines to Australia. It is in the process of selling Rafale jets to India and it has assisted Malaysia in setting up its submarine force.
France also maintains research cooperation on defense matters with Singapore. Few people know that fighter pilots of the Singapore Air Force train on a permanent basis in southern France.
Is France about to assume another principled and gallant defense of international law, this time in the South China Sea? Or, as its critics suspect, is it taking a position and showing the flag in hopes of harvesting future mercantile benefits in the economically booming Asia-Pacific?
The Diplomat.com / AA Magnum Asian Pacific News 2018.