China fumes as British warship sails near South China Sea islands

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China expressed anger on Thursday after a British Royal Navy warship sailed close to islands claimed by China in the South China Sea late last month, saying Britain was engaged in “provocation” and that it had lodged a strong complaint.

The HMS Albion, a 22,000 ton amphibious warship carrying a contingent of Royal Marines, passed by the Paracel Islands in recent days, two sources, who were familiar with the matter but who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

The Albion was on its way to Ho Chi Minh City, where it docked on Monday following a deployment in and around Japan.

One of the sources said Beijing dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to challenge the British vessel, but both sides remained calm during the encounter.

The other source the Albion did not enter the territorial seas around any features in the hotly disputed region but demonstrated that Britain does not recognise excessive maritime claims around the Paracel Islands. Twelve nautical miles is an internationally recognised territorial limit.

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