British Frigate in Swing Through Indo-Pacific Stops in Vietnam

British Royal Navy frigate HMS Richmond has arrived in Vietnam on a four-day friendly visit after transiting through the Taiwan Strait, angering China.

The frigate posted a picture docked in Cam Ranh Bay on Friday, followed by a video, on its Twitter page, saying in Vietnamese: “Hello Vietnam! So proud for Richmond to have an opportunity to visit your beautiful country.”

A statement from the British Embassy in Hanoi said, “the ship’s presence underlines the U.K.’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific, at the heart of which lies the U.K.’s partnership with Viet Nam.”

It also said the HMS Richmond and Vietnamese partners will conduct “bilateral cooperation activities” without giving details.

Four days ago, China condemned the frigate’s passage through the Taiwan Strait saying the United Kingdom is “carrying out a meaningless display of presence with an insidious intention.”

In an unusual move, HMS Richmond broadcast its location while sailing through the sensitive strait, prompting China to dispatch military units to follow and monitor the passage. Publicizing the passage was widely seen as a deliberate act by the U.K. to confirm that the Taiwan Strait is international waters and part of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

British naval officers at the welcoming ceremony for HMS Richmond at Cam Ranh port, Oct. 1, 2021. Credit: Twitter feed of UK Embassy in Hanoi.

The Type 13-frigate, part of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group, is visiting Vietnam after “a busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea,” it announced earlier.

The Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier made its first port call in Japan earlier this month following exercises with Japanese and U.S. partners in August.

The Royal Navy has also deployed two patrol vessels to the Indo-Pacific on a five-year mission to bolster Britain’s presence in the region.

In July, the UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace made his first-ever visit to Vietnam.

Hanoi has always been careful not to offend Beijing and the HMS Richmond’s visit is not being featured yet in main official news outlets such as the Nhan Dan (the Communist Party’s mouthpiece) and Quan Doi Nhan Dan (the Vietnamese army’s newspaper).

However China’s increasing assertiveness, especially in the South China Sea where the two neighbors have overlapping claims, has led Vietnam to expand its military and strategic cooperation with other nations.

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