The first German warship in nearly two decades enters the South China Sea

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BERLIN, Dec.15 (Reuters) – A German warship sailed the South China Sea on Wednesday for the first time in nearly 20 years, a move that sees Berlin join with other Western countries in expanding its military presence in the region amid growing concern over China. territorial ambitions.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, despite an international tribunal ruling that Beijing has no legal basis for these claims and has built military outposts on man-made islands in waters that contain gas fields and a rich peach.

The German Navy ship has started transit through the South China Sea en route to Singapore which is expected to take several days, a defense ministry spokesperson in Berlin said on Wednesday.

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The frigate Bayern is the first German warship to cross the South China Sea since 2002, waters through which 40% of Europe’s foreign trade transit.

The US Navy, in a show of force against Chinese territorial claims, regularly conducts so-called “freedom of navigation” operations in which their ships pass near some of the disputed islands. China in turn opposes US missions, saying they do not help promote peace or stability.

Washington has placed the fight against China at the heart of its national security policy and seeks to rally its partners against what it says are Beijing’s increasingly coercive economic and foreign policies.

Officials in Berlin said the German navy would stick to common trade routes. The frigate is also not expected to cross the Taiwan Strait, another regular American activity condemned by Beijing.

Nonetheless, the former German government made it clear that the mission serves to highlight the fact that Germany does not accept China’s territorial claims.

Germany is walking a tightrope between its security and its economic interests as China has become Berlin’s most important trading partner. German exports there have helped mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Europe’s largest economy.

Countries like Britain, France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have also expanded their activity in the Pacific to counter the influence of China.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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