German warship heads for South China Sea for first time in 20 years amid rigidity with Beijing

German warship heads for South China Sea for first time in two decades amid tension with Beijing
China claims swathes of the South China Sea and has established military outposts on artificial islands in the waters that contain gas fields and rich fishing.

The US Navy, in a show of force against the Chinese territorial claims, regularly conducts so-called “freedom of navigation” operations in which their vessels pass close by some of the contested islands. China in turn objects to the US missions, saying they do not help promote peace or stability.

Washington has put countering China at the heart of its national security policy and seeks to rally partners against what it says are Beijing’s increasingly coercive economic and foreign policies.

Officials in Berlin have said the German navy will stick to common trade routes. The frigate is not expected to sail through the Taiwan Strait either, another regular US activity condemned by Beijing.

Nevertheless, Berlin has made it clear the mission serves to stress the fact Germany does not accept China’s territorial claims.

Germany is…