US Withdraws China's Invite To RIMPAC Military Drills

China's indigenous aircraft carrier lifts anchor in Dalian in northeast China in a file

Earlier this month China deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Spratly Islands off the Philippine coast, CNBC reported, citing sources close to USA intelligence.

China's Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi said the United States decision to exclude it from Rimpac was "very non-constructive".

China has intensified its military activity in the South China Sea, performing more frequent and larger-scale drills. It was another significant step in Beijing's militarization of disputed territories in the region - and more evidence of how President Trump has been strategically outplayed by his "friend" Xi Jinping.

Beijing claims virtually all the South China Sea and has ignored partial counter-claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

VN Express reported Wednesday the explosion took place Sunday near the Paracel Islands, where China is believed to have recently tested the takeoff and landing capabilities of its bombers. The U.S. has also accused China of establishing secret military bases on the islands, where China publicly announced for the first time last week it landed its nuclear-capable H-6K bombers.

The U.S. military calls RimPac the world's largest worldwide maritime exercise and says it "helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans".

As it continued to build runways and install radar equipment on the islands, Chinese officials said the military equipment was meant for defensive purposes and did not constitute "militarization" of the islands.

The Pentagon said the invitation was withdrawn in response to what it sees as Beijing's militarization of islands in the disputed South China Sea, a strategic waterway claimed in large part by China. The move is said to be in response to Beijing's recent escalation of the militarization of islands in the South China Sea, which has been well-documented by worldwide reports.

Washington also is engaged in a sprawling trade dispute with China over US complaints about market access and technology policy. "China's response will be to adjust its information warfare, but China's strategy will remain on course, unperturbed by US actions thus far", he said.

While not addressing the rescinded invitation directly, Pompeo said the USA has "expressed consistent concern about militarization of the South China Sea".

Pompeo said at the same briefing that the U.S. has been consistent in raising its concerns about China's behavior in the South China Sea. Countries surrounding the South China Sea could eventually find themselves forced to accept Chinese hegemony in the region. China has participated in the naval drills since 2014.

RIMPAC is slated to begin June 27 and last until August 2, according to officials.

The US withdrawal of an invitation to such a symbolic event comes at a hard time in relations between the two sides and is potentially just the first setback in military exchanges between them, said Zhang Yuquan, an worldwide relations specialist at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. This year's exercise is slated to run from June 27 through August 2.

Besides, China's past record at RIMPAC isn't exactly stellar. "Mil-to-mil exchanges will help to increase mutual trust. China's behavior and actions have become more recalcitrant, more aggressive, more dismissive of the rule of law, and more unsafe to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region despite the United States' engagement policy".

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