Britain plans to sail a warship to the South China Sea next month at a time of rising tensions between China and the United States, a move likely to anger Beijing.
British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson told The Australian newspaper on Tuesday HMS Sutherland, a Type 23 frigate, will travel through the key trading lane after concluding a visit to Australia.
If Britain went ahead with its plan, it would become what is believed to be only the second country after the United States to assert what it calls freedom of navigation rights in waters, which China controls.
Beijing has, on different occasions, asserted its sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, which serves as a crossing for more $ 5 trillion worth of maritime trade annually. The sea is also claimed in part by the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.
The US has accused China of implementing what it calls a land reclamation program in the South China Sea by…