Germany Sends Warship To Contested South China Sea For First Time In 2 Decades

In an almost unprecedented move, Germany has joined the US and UK in bolstering its military presence in the South China Sea, on Monday sending a warship to contested waters to counter China’s expanding territorial ambitions for the first time in two decades.

Reuters cited defense officials in Berlin who said “the German navy will stick to common trade routes,” who further described that “The frigate is not expected to sail through the Taiwan Strait either, another regular U.S. activity condemned by Beijing.”

German Navy’s F 217 FGS Bayern

“Nevertheless, Berlin has made it clear the mission serves to stress the fact Germany does not accept China’s territorial claims,” the report added.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in a fresh statement stressed that “We want existing law to be respected, sea routes to be freely navigable, open societies to be protected and trade to follow fair rules.” And a statement made last week by Kramp-Karrenbauer explained that “Stronger defense and security cooperation fills the multilateralism that is so important to us with life and strengthens the partnership with friends in Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.”

The German frigate now en route to the region has been identified as the “Bayern” – which is kicking off a seven month voyage to the Indo-Pacific, including stops in Australia, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. As the maritime monitoring site Naval News details:

On the way, exercises are planned with the navies of Australia, Singapore, Japan and the United States of America.

…The vessel is expected to cross the South China Sea in mid-December, making it the first German warship to pass through the region since 2002.

Crew members of the Bayern setting off, via DPA

US pass throughs of the contested Taiwan Strait – again which Germany is not expected to undertake itself – have now been a monthly feature of President Biden’s policy and stance toward China. 

Berlin has the added pressure, however, of not wanting to introduce new tensions with Beijing given China has lately become Germany’s most important trading partner.

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