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DEFENCE Secretary Gavin Williamson was accused of “sabre rattling” at China and Venezuela today after threatening to open military bases near their shores.
He revealed the plans in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, provoking anger among anti-war activists.
Veterans for Peace UK national co-ordinator Phillip Clarke told the Star: “We should be building peace and not military bases overseas,” while Peace Pledge Union spokesman Symon Hill described the proposals as a “dangerous fantasy.”
Britain already has one of the highest numbers of overseas military bases in the world, with a sprawling network spanning at least 10 countries over five continents.
Mr Williamson said he was “very much looking at how can we get as much of our resources forward-based, actually creating a deterrent but also taking a British presence.”
“We are looking at those opportunities not just in the Far East but also in the Caribbean as well.”
Although he declined to identify exact locations, the Telegraph quoted a source close to the Defence Secretary as saying that in the South China Sea, Singapore and Brunei were being considered, while in the Caribbean, Montserrat and Guyana were seen as options.
The army already has at least three camps in Brunei, which has been ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah ever since independence from Britain in 1984.
Shell has major oil fields in the country and the sultan has received criticism from human rights groups in recent years for introducing a strict Islamic penal code.
Mr Williamson’s plans would risk inflaming the situation in the South China Sea.
In September, China accused the Royal Navy of “provocative actions” after HMS Albion sailed close to the disputed Paracel Islands.
Guyana would be another controversial location for a British military base as the former British colony has a long-running dispute with neighbouring Venezuela over their maritime border.
The Guyanese government has allowed US firm Exxon Mobil to prospect for oil under the seabed, leading to a recent confrontation with Venezuela’s navy.
Venezuela Solidarity Campaign secretary Francisco Dominguez told the Star he was “extremely concerned about the apparent decision by the UK government to instal a military base in Guyana.”
He warned that it would “add to the existing tensions” between Guyana and Venezuela over the border dispute.
Mr Dominguez also voiced fears that this “sabre-rattling” could ultimately lead to Western powers making a “pincer movement” against Venezuela from Guyana and Colombia.
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