LONDON (Dispatches) -- Britain wants to expand its influence among countries in the Indo-Pacific region to try to moderate China’s global dominance, a document laying out post-Brexit foreign policy priorities said on Tuesday.
The document also underlined the importance of strong ties with the United States, and British media said an increase was planned to Britain’s nuclear arsenal and that Russia would be named as a top security threat.
Britain’s biggest foreign and defense policy review since the end of the Cold War will set out how Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to reinvigorate the country’s creaking economy after leaving the European Union.
Calling the Indo-Pacific "increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world”, the government highlighted a planned British aircraft carrier deployment to the region and said a previously postponed visit to India would go ahead in April.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab acknowledged Britain’s attempts to influence Beijing had been marginal so far, and said cooperating with other nations in the region gave it a better chance of purportedly controlling China.
"We’re far better acting in concert with clusters of like-minded countries - not just the Europeans and the Americans - but more broadly to try and have the maximum impact and moderating impact on China, because it is sensitive to its reputation,” Raab told Times Radio.
The United States has also underlined the importance of the Indo-Pacific region under President Joe Biden and warned against China’s growing rise, and the European Union also hopes to deepen ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific.
The document will be scrutinized for evidence of how the government will deliver on Johnson’s promises as Britain copes with the economic and political fallout of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sun newspaper reported the document would raise the upper limit on Britain’s number of nuclear warheads to 260 from 180.
Sky News said the report would classify Russia as an "active threat” and take a more nuanced approach to China as a "systemic challenge” - a reference to its rising geopolitical leadership and its economic influence.
In 2015, Britain’s then finance minister, George Osborne, predicted a "golden” era in Chinese-British relations. But ties have frayed over issues including Beijing’s stance on reintegration of former British colony Hong Kong and U.S.-orchestrated "security concerns” around Chinese investment in Britain.
A statement previewing the report underlined "the importance of our relationship with the U.S.” which has taken a confrontational approach toward Chian.