A German frigate is to set sail for Asia in August and, on its return journey, become the first German warship to cross the South China Sea since 2002, senior government officials in Berlin said on Tuesday.
The ship would not pass within what officials in the German Federal Foreign Office and the German Ministry of Defense called the “12-nautical-mile [22.2km],” in a reference to contested areas in the crowded sea.
China claims almost all the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, where it has established military outposts on artificial islands. Taiwan has virtually identical claims.
The frigate is to sail from the Indian Ocean through the Malacca Strait to Australia and monitor a UN embargo against North Korean before transiting the South China Sea, the officials said.
The mission’s aim is to strengthen multilateralism and a rules-based international order, and demonstrate Germany’s support for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, they said.
The US Navy regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea, in which their vessels pass close to some of the islands, asserting freedom of access to international waterways.
The US has accused Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea, and trying to intimidate its neighbors who might want to exploit the region’s extensive oil and gas reserves.
Additional reporting by CNA, with staff writer
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