It's yet to be seen whether the HMS Sutherland will provoke a response from China, but recent history suggests it's likely. Seriously...? Do you guys really exist?
President Rodrigo Duterte told a news conference late Friday that the Philippines will continue talks with China over disputed South China Sea territories.
China has also defied and refuses to comply with an global arbitration ruling that invalidated its claim in virtually all of the South China Sea on historical grounds.
The Philippines has reaffirmed its commitment to protecting its claims in the South China Sea even as it agreed with China to "cooperate and properly manage issues of mutual concern" to prevent incidents in the disputed waters.
Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London's School of Oriental and African Studies, told The Independent he believed Mr Williamson's announcement of the Sutherland's planned mission was indicated the United Kingdom backed the US' approach, and it was "reasonable to assume" the Defence Secretary had Britain's special relation in mind when he made it. After one such freedom of navigation operation last summer China said it was a "serious political and military provocation".
Mr Williamson said: "She'll be sailing through the South China Sea. and making it clear our navy has a right to do that".
"I think we've always got to be vigilant to any form of malign intent".
But Williamson said in an interview with Australian media that the USA would not be able to adequately focus on the issue alone, saying that Washington "was looking for other countries to do more". "The US is looking for other countries to do more".
HMS Sutherland is an anti-submarine warship similar to the design the United Kingdom is hoping to build for Australia as part of the $35 billion Future Frigate Program, which is also being contested by Spanish and Italian shipbuilders.
The worldwide waterway is at the centre of an global row between China, which has made territorial claims on islands in the area, and other nearby nations. Along with building and militarizing its artificial islands, China in 2016 rejected an worldwide tribunal's ruling that largely invalidated its claims and has steadily increased naval missions and aerial patrols in the area. "If this happens, it would be really serious", Shi said. In July 2016, the Philippines won an arbitration case at a court in The Hague that voided China's claim, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's two-week old administration at that time departed from his predecessor's foreign policy and set aside the legal victory in order to fix diplomatic and economic ties with China.