The United Kingdom (UK) wants to permanently station two warships in Southeast Asia in what is widely seen as its contribution to the international collective effort of maintaining peace and security in the region being challenged by China’s expansionist claims and aggressive military activities.
UK’s intent was conveyed by Amanda Milling during his meeting with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday at the Department of National Defense (DND). The official made his first visit to Manila as the new minister for Asia at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
“Minister Milling conveyed the UK’s intent to maintain two offshore patrol vessels [OPVs] permanently in Southeast Asia, as a demonstration of its long-term commitment to the Indo-Pacific region,” the DND said in a news statement issued through its spokesman Arsenio “Popong” Andolong.
UK’s Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth, and its carrier strike group flotilla, which included American, Dutch and Australian warships is currently in the region for its Asian voyage under its first operational deployment since it went into service.
Last week, it crossed into Bashi Channel and the disputed South China Sea on its way to Japan, dismissing warnings from China against sailing into the regional waters that Beijing claims. Just days before, it joined and sailed with two US carrier groups.
Lorenzana said the region welcome UK’s intention to permanently deploy two ships, but the country is lukewarm to it, adding that the warships could be based in Malaysia or Singapore.
The DND said that during the meeting, both Lorenzana and Milling also discussed the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) trilateral security partnership, the intent of which, “as Minister Milling emphasized, is to support Australia’s capability development to contribute to security in the region.”
The AUKUS, one of the newest security partnerships to rise in the region along with the Quad Security Dialogue, which groups the US, Japan, Australia and India, was formed basically to challenge China’s military weight and its activities in the region.
The DND said that UK has been granted the status of Asean Dialogue Partner since August 2021 and has applied for observer status in the Asean Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus Experts’ Working Groups (EWGs).
On bilateral issues, Lorenzana and Milling tackled defense cooperation between the Philippines and the UK, which is being implemented under the 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defense Cooperation.
“The UK side also provided updates on the contract implementation of defense acquisition projects between the Philippines and the UK. Both sides reaffirmed their intent to exchange resident Defense Attachés, as the two countries continue to increase cooperative engagements,” DND said.