The tension between Russia and the UK heightened as Moscow warned London against possible retaliation in the military bases in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. The UK is planning to set up permanent military bases in the region after leaving the EU which endangers both China and the UK.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said in late December that that the UK military was working on plans to build at least two new overseas bases “within the next couple of years.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday that while the UK had the right to consider such plans, Moscow would not hesitate to react against any threats posed by London’s military expansion.
“In the event of any measures that pose a threat to Russia’s security or that of its allies our country reserves the right to take appropriate retaliatory measures,” she warned. Zakharova described Williamson’s comments as “counter-productive,” warning that the UK’s military plans could cause instability considering the current state of world affairs.
Williamson has yet to specify where the bases might be built. However, citing unnamed military sources, The Telegraph said they could be built in Singapore and Brunei. The UK has long been flaring up tensions with Russia over what it described earlier last year as a growing threat from Moscow. It has also been showing interest in supporting Ukraine in a standoff with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula.
Singapore, which hosts a British naval repair facility, and Brunei, where a battalion of British soldiers are stationed, is in proximity to the highly contested South China Sea.
Brunei is also one of the countries that dispute China’s territorial claims over the sea. The others include Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan, with whom the United States has taken sides to challenge Beijing’s sovereignty. China is expected to consider the new British plan as a strategic threat to its sovereignty, something the US has been doing over the past years by expanding its military presence in the region.
Analysts say the military expansion plan is London’s response to a possible decline in its influence following Brexit. This is likely to prompt the government of Prime Minister Theresa May to consider increasing military relations with the United States, which is also challenging the Chinese sovereignty in the waters, Mark Valencia, an analyst at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told South China Morning Post.
He explained that Britain’s efforts to challenge China in the region was an ambitious move with consequences that the UK was not prepared for. Earlier this week, the Chinese military scrambled warplanes and vessels to ward off an American navy warship which sailed near the Xisha Island chain, called Paracel by Beijing’s rivals.
China has constantly warned Washington that close military encounters between the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region could easily trigger miscalculation or even accidents at sea or in the air.