The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, arrives at the British territory of Gibraltar on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)
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A British warship will sail from Australia through the disputed South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights, a senior official said Tuesday in a move likely to irk Beijing.British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said HMS Sutherland, an anti-submarine frigate, would arrive in Australia later this week."She'll be sailing through the South China Sea [on the way home] and making it clear our navy has a right to do that," he told The Australian newspaper after a two-day visit to Sydney and Canberra.He would not say whether the frigate would sail within 12 nautical miles of a disputed territory or artificial island built by the Chinese, as U.S. ships have done.When asked Tuesday about a possible freedom of navigation voyage by the British, China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said all countries have "navigation and overflight freedom in the South China Sea".
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