Gavin Williamson gets dressing down from Chancellor Hammond over China warship row
British media reported that China’s vice premier, Hu Chunhua, had withdrawn from trade talks with Hammond as a result of Williamson’s fervent speech where he warned Beijing of the UK’s “hard power.”
The defense secretary declared that HMS Queen Elizabeth, the country’s largest warship, would be deployed to the Pacific to “show [China] the high price of aggressive behavior.”
In an interview with BBC radio on Thursday, Hammond insisted that talk of warship deployment plans were “entirely premature,” suggesting Williamson’s speech was far from helpful at a time when the UK is attempting to strike up crucial post-Brexit trade deals.
Hammond said: “It is a complex relationship and it hasn’t been made simpler by Chinese concerns about royal navy deployments in the South China Sea.”
Williamson is known for pushing Britain to reassert its role as an influential military power. He also often makes headline-grabbing statements. In September, commenting on plans to send British troops to the Arctic, he called the region the nation’s “backyard.” At the end of last year, he unveiled plans to build military bases in the Far East and the Caribbean, suggesting that it would help the UK to become a “true global player” after leaving the EU.
During tensions over the Skripal poisoning case, Williamson went on a fiery tirade against Moscow, saying that Russia should “go away and shut up.” The comment raised quite a few eyebrows in Moscow, which also suggests that statements such as this do not particularly help ease tensions in bilateral ties.
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