Europe Politics

UK plans to beef up military deployments in Asia

Key Points
  • The UK plans to increase its presence in the contested South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The country's Carrier Strike Group, with flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, is on its maiden deployment.
  • The UK wants to have a "more persistent presence" in the region than any other European country does, says British High Commissioner to Singapore Kara Owen.
Helicopters and F-35 fighter planes aboard Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth, docked at Changi Naval Base in Singapore.
Victor Loh, CNBC

SINGAPORE — The United Kingdom plans to increase its presence in the contested South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific region, the Royal Air Force Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said Monday.

Speaking on board the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth docked in Singapore, Sir Wigston said that there would be a "more regular drumbeat of deployments."

"That would be manifested both in what you see from the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force," he said.

The U.K.'s Carrier Strike Group, led by the £3 billion ($3.9 billion) flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth, is on its maiden 28-week deployment around the world in a projection of force.

The British High Commissioner to Singapore, Kara Owen, added that two Royal Navy warships had just transited through the Panama Canal and were headed to Asian waters. This follows an announcement in July to permanently assign two warships in the region.

UK's HMS Queen Elizabeth docks in Singapore, aims to strengthen military presence in Asia
UK's largest warship docks in Singapore, aims to strengthen presence in Asia

"Our ambition is to take a more persistent presence here than any other country from [Europe]," she said on board the 65,000-ton ship.

Besides the deployment of more military assets, the increased engagement will come in the form of humanitarian aid and disaster relief, Sir Wigston added.

A view of HMS Queen Elizabeth's flight deck from the top of the aircraft carrier's ski ramp.
Victor Loh, CNBC

Earlier, ships from the U.K. Carrier Strike Group participated in an exercise marking the 50th anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

The deployment also comes as the U.K. seeks to ink more trade deals around the world following its departure from the E.U.

In June, the U.K. started negotiations to join a wider Asia Pacific free-trade alliance known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.