Pentagon cancels China's invitation to Pacific military drills

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The Pentagon announced Wednesday that China would no longer be invited to the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) biennial exercise, considered the world's largest worldwide naval training and cited China's "continued militarization" of contested islands in the South China Sea.

The decision to withdraw China's invitation was made by Defense Secretary James Mattis in coordination with the White House, according to a United States official, after Beijing's recent deployment of missile systems and the first landing of a Chinese bomber on an island in the South China Sea.

The United States has revoked China's invitation to participate in this year's Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise, the largest naval drill in the world.

The statement also did not mention China's use of a laser against US pilots flying near Beijing's first overseas military base in the east African state of Djibouti. The exercise is largest worldwide Navy exercise, with 27 nations slated to participate in this year's version.

China has not yet publicly responded to its expulsion from RIMPAC.

China hit back at the decision, calling it "very non-constructive" and saying it was taken without due reflection.

China has intensified its military activity in the South China Sea, performing more frequent and larger-scale drills. It has built up islands and military installations across the region.

ISI analysts believe that this provides further evidence that China is increasingly "militarizing" its islands in the South China Sea, ramping up tensions in the region that might undermine its strategic stability. Since 1972, the US has recognized China as the sole legitimate government, but has offered arms to Taiwan.

Almost a third of global trade passes through the South China Sea and Beijing has bigger commercial and military ambitions for this strategic sea area, said William Choong, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore.

Over the weekend, China's air force landed bombers on islands in the sea as part of a training exercise, triggering concern from Vietnam and the Philippines.

Logan added that Xi had broken a promise he made to the worldwide community that China would not militarize the Spratly Islands.

The Spratly archipelago is disputed from six countries: Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei.

"China is only building civilian and some necessary defense facilities on our own islands", he said.

Chinese officials said the announcement was "a very unconstructive move", and that they hope the United States will change its "negative mindset".

"Strengthening military-to-military exchanges is also a USA appeal, and it is no use coercing China to give up its inherent right by one or two exchange programs", said Lu. He said, "our goal remains to convince China that its best future comes from peaceful cooperation, meaningful participation in the current rules-based worldwide order, and honoring its global commitments".

Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the People's Liberation Army Navy would not be participating in the exercise, despite its involvement in 2014 and 2016.

China's Defence Ministry expressed regret on Thursday after the United States withdrew an invitation to China to attend a major USA -hosted naval drill, saying that closing the door does not promote mutual trust and co-operation.