UK to Engage in Long-Term Exercises in Indo-Pacific

Victoria Kelly-Clark
By Victoria Kelly-Clark
September 28UKshare

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has announced that it will be engaged in multiple military exercises that will see it training with multiple nations in the Indo-Pacific—including Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea—until December as part of the country’s continued tilt toward the region.

A flight of four Typhoon fighters and one Voyager air-to-air refuelling aircraft from the RAF travelled to Australia to participate in Exercise Pitch Black in Darwin alongside 100 other aircraft and 2,500 personnel from 17 different countries.

The extended RAF deployment in the region comes in addition to the Royal Navy celebrating one year of permanent presence in the region with the HMS Spey and HMS Tamar.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the ability of the RAF to deploy to the region long-term demonstrates the UK’s commitment to maintaining its historical ties to the region.

“Security and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific remain paramount, and with the Pitch Black exercises and the persistent presence of the Royal Navy in the Pacific, we are able to demonstrate our commitment and shared responsibility across the region and further strengthen our close ties with friends and allies,” he said.

The increased engagement from the UK comes after the British government identified the Indo-Pacific region as being critical to the UK’s economy, security, and global ambition to support open societies.

The UK’s increasing military engagement in the reason comes after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in a policy paper in July 2021 that the UK government’s vision for the country is for it to be deeply engaged in the Indo-Pacific as the European partner with the broadest, most integrated presence in support of mutually beneficial trade, shared security, and values by 2030.

“We will pursue deeper engagement in the Indo-Pacific in support of shared prosperity and regional stability, with stronger diplomatic and trading ties,” the paper reads.

Europe Engaging More Heavily in the Region to Counter China

The UK isn’t the only European power engaging more heavily in the Indo-Pacific region, with France and Germany participating in military exercises in the region.

NATO has stated that it was moving to heighten its presence in the region as a counterpoint to China’s increasingly aggressive stance in the region. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced in April that the organisation would increase engagement in the region to counteract ongoing aggression and militarisation from Beijing.

“We have seen that China is unwilling to condemn Russia’s aggression. And Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of nations to choose their own path,” Stoltenberg said. “This is a serious challenge to us all. And it makes it even more important that we stand together to protect our values.”

France has recently demonstrated its ability to rapidly respond to conflict in the Indo-Pacific with a contingent of the French Air Force travelling from Paris to New Caledonia in just 72 hours, more than 16,600 kilometres (10,315 miles), to demonstrate France’s ability to engage rapidly in any possible conflict in the Pacific.

“The fact that we are trying to do such air power projection in the Pacific is a concrete illustration” of the French resolve to ensure the sovereignty of their territory is protected, according to Maj. Gen. Stephane Groen, chief of staff of the French Air and Space Force’s Air Operations Command and commander of the drills, the Nikkei Asia reported.

Michito Tsuruoka, an associate professor of international security and European politics at Japan’s Keio University, said reengagement in the region was a good strategy for European powers.

In an article for The Diplomat in 2021, he said that if other allies focus on different threats and challenges in various theatres of conflict, then there’s a more significant potential for it to lead to “wider perception gaps,” making it difficult to “work together on broader issues like China, or Russia.”

“Geographical distance can no longer be a shield for Europe to protect itself from the consequences of China’s behaviour,” Tsuruoka said.

From The Epoch Times

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