The German navy’s frigate “Bayern” sailed for the Indo-Pacific area on Monday, fully loaded with Berlin’s hopes of playing a minor role in the geopolitical confrontation between China and the West.
China has claimed large swaths of the South China Sea and built military installations on artificial islands, including gas deposits and abundant fishing.
In December, it will also transit through the South China Sea, a flashpoint of tensions between China, its regional neighbors, and Western allies such as the United States.
“The message is clear: we are standing up for our values and interests together with our partners and allies,” said Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer ahead of the ship’s departure.
According to Berlin officials, the German navy would stick to traditional trade routes. The frigate is also not scheduled to cruise across the Taiwan Strait, which Beijing has previously criticized as a routine US practice.
Nonetheless, Berlin has made it plain that the mission’s purpose is to emphasize Germany’s rejection of China’s territorial claims.
As China has become Berlin’s most significant trading partner, Germany is treading a fine line between security and economic objectives.
The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on Europe’s largest economy has been lessened.