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Claim: Tensions are currently growing between Chinese and UK naval forces as the two countries sent aircraft carriers to the South China Sea.
Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a video posted on YouTube on September 9 by a channel with 138,000 subscribers. As of writing, the video has 66,431 views, 501 likes, and 48 comments.
The bottom line: Although framed as a current event, the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s presence in the South China Sea actually occurred in 2021. There is no standoff presently underway between UK and Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.
Old news: The video features a July 29, 2021 post from Twitter user Duan Dang, which shows satellite imagery of the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong in the South China Sea.
The UK Navy’s flagship was, in fact, spotted in the South China Sea around that time en route to Japan, leading a carrier strike group to demonstrate freedom of navigation. The vessel’s voyage prompted China to warn the UK against carrying out any “improper acts” as it entered the contested waters.
Analysts said the deployment shows the UK’s commitment to upholding maritime law and challenges China’s sweeping claim over the entire South China Sea, which was struck down by an arbitral tribunal in a landmark 2016 ruling. The UK had previously expressed its support for the ruling that favored Manila.
Current deployment: Contrary to the video’s claim, the HMS Queen Elizabeth is not in the South China Sea, but is currently leading a Carrier Strike Group deployment alongside NATO allies, the UK Royal Navy said. The aircraft carrier departed from Portsmouth on September 9 and is heading to the Norwegian Sea and waters of northern Europe to reinforce peace and security in the region.
Katarina Ruflo is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.
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