The US defense department has decided to withdraw its invitation for China to take part in the upcoming large-scale exercise Rim of the Pacific in Hawaii.
This was announced by Pentagon spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan who said the decision was part of the US response to China’s actions in the South China Sea and its militarization of artificial islands.
“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions,” Logan said.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy took part in the previous two iterations of the exercise in 2014 and 2016, joining submarine-rescue and non-warfighting portions of the exercise.
China’s participation in the largest international maritime drill was also disputed in 2016 according to media reports which said US officials called on Barrack Obama to ban China from participating in military exercise. Despite the reports, China took part in RIMPAC 2016 with one missile destroyer, a missile frigate, a supply ship, a hospital ship and a submarine rescue vessel.
Pentagon’s decision to exclude China from the 2018 edition of the drill was described as “unconstructive” by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who spoke to reporters after meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington. Yi defended China’s actions in the South China Sea saying his country was only building civilian and necessary defense facilities on its own islands.
Spy ships during RIMPAC
Despite being invited to the 2016 and 2014 edition of the exercise, China sent spy ships to observe US Navy and other ally ships during the maneuvers. Russia was not invited to RIMPAC 2016 after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Despite this, Russia deployed navy ships off Hawaii to observe the exercise.