The United Kingdom government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson is desperate to position the country as "Global Britain" after its messy withdrawal from the European Union. But such a dream can never come true if the Johnson government insists on realizing it through exacerbating geopolitical competition and raising regional tensions.
On Monday, for the first time since 2008, a UK warship, HMS Richmond, a frigate deployed with the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier strike group to the Asia-Pacific, sailed through the Taiwan Straits. The move was clearly intended to challenge China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
One day later, the UK announced it would begin formal negotiations with Japan to deepen their defense relationship. The UK's defense ministry said the talks with Japan would send a clear signal about the determination of the two countries to support the rules-based international order. This again marks a major UK strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific in unison with the United States with the aim of targeting China.
Johnson is desperate to secure a trade deal with the US. Even its chaotic response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been unable to cover up the consequences of Brexit for the UK economy. The post-deal chickens are now coming home to roost and causing a heck of a ruckus. To strut on the global stage in a manner it considers befitting to the puffed-up jingoism it is pandering to and secure a we-have-put-all-our-eggs-in-this-basket deal with the US, the Johnson government is closely following the lead of the US.
Yet it keeps slipping on the melting fudge of the Northern Ireland Protocol. US President Joe Biden once again warned Johnson that the chances of securing a trade deal with the US are little to none if its post-Brexit policy damages the protocol aimed at maintaining the Good Friday Agreement.
The moves Johnson has taken to scamper behind the US as the Biden administration ramps up its "Indo-Pacific" strategy will stoke confrontation and create tensions on the geopolitical front, which will, in turn, pose a threat to regional peace and stability.
In its unseemly eagerness to bark from behind the heels of Washington, the UK is aggravating the already simmering tensions in the Taiwan Straits, where the US frequently seeks to provoke China. The Johnson government should not indulge in the illusion that China's bottom line on its territorial integrity is something that it can play with in its games with the US.
The UK government should be fully aware of the sensitivity of the Taiwan question as it forms the very political foundation for the UK's ties with China. Nor should it underestimate Beijing's strong determination, resolve and ability to safeguard the country's territorial integrity.
Instead of trying to exploit the situation in the region to fish for rule-Britannia support at home, the Johnson government should abandon its colonial-style pretensions and ensure that the UK acts as a responsible member of the international community by respecting the aspirations of the region for peaceful development.