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China RIMPAC Invitation Coincides with Disputes

The following article has been translated from the Chinese news site Sina Daily News. It reveals key reactions and commentaries from Chinese officials to China’s 2018 RIMPAC (Pacific Rim Joint Military Exercises) invitation by the United States, and provides necessary information about how the U.S.-China relationship is being marketed abroad in the wake of increasing tensions

American Navy Already Invited China to Participate in 2018 Pacific Rim Military Exercises as well as a Planning Meeting

According to a May 29th American Defense News Website Report, on Monday the American Navy confirmed that they had already sent out an invitation to their Chinese counterparts to participate in the “Pacific Rim” Allied Military Exercises, which are to be held in 2018.

The 3rd Fleet spokesperson from the American Navy, Ryan Perry, responded on Monday, noting that the Americans already invited everyone from countries that participated in “Pacific Rim 2016” Allied Military Exercises to continue to participate in the forthcoming 2018 military exercises.

Perry indicated that the Pentagon sector already expressed that they could invite China to the military exercise preparation meeting that will be held in June in San Diego (US).

If this is the final planned exercise, this will be the third time that the Chinese Navy has participated in the Pacific Rim military exercises.

The Defense News website describes the background surrounding this invitation as a “tense situation”. According to a press release by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense on the 25th of May, the American “Dewey” guided missile destroyer entered the Chinese Nansha Archipelago and related adjacent sea areas around the island and reef without permission. Chinese navy “Lizhou” Missile Frigate and “Luzhou” Missile Frigate spotted the ship and investigated, carrying out a disciplinary warning to drive the American Naval vessel away.

Disputed Territory in the South China Sea. Image Source: UNCLOS, CIA

Spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense Guoqiang Ren responded to this incident on the 25th, saying that China possesses indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Archipelago as well as nearby ocean areas. Regarding American military’s display of muscle-flexing, pushing forward with the militarization of the region will easily trigger unforeseen naval and air aggression. Chinese troops expressed resolute opposition to continue jointly advancing serious negotiations.

“Presently, the relationship between the militaries of both nations is situated in an important period of development. We believe that to keep a steady and healthy Sino-U.S. relationship that allies with our common interests, we must both make great efforts to cooperate. We demand American forces adopt practical steps to amend their mistakes in order to rectify and develop the military relationship between the two countries at an increased capacity. The American military’s current conduct regarding their mistakes will only urge the Chinese military to further build up their strength, steadfastly defending their country’s safety and sovereignty.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kang Lu. Image Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

In a routine press conference also held on the same day, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kang Lu, said that “the related actions of American troops harm Chinese sovereignty and safety interests, and could very easily trigger unforeseen incidents with navy and air forces. The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied with and resolutely against this expression of force.”

Kang Lu further noted that currently, under collaboration between China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the South China Sea dispute is cooling off and abating, and not at all breaking the appeared positive development of the situation. But, the aforementioned American aggression seriously obstructed the progress of the discussions, and harmed international affairs yet produced no benefit for America itself.

The “Pacific Rim” joint military exercises are initiated and held by the United States as international exercises for the largest militaries, and began in 1971. Since 1991 it has changed into a biennial exercise, with a purpose of promoting Pacific Ocean coastal nations to protect ocean thoroughfare safety, and reach unification in response to maritime unconventional safety and danger capabilities.

Since 1998, China has begun dispatching diplomacy observers to participate in these exercises, and in 2014 for the first time incorporated actual guests to participate. From June 30th to August 4th in 2016, “Pacific Rim-2016” exercises were held in Hawaiian islands and California as well as nearby areas. 27 nations participated, including America and China. The Chinese military presence in the exercises was particularly strong due to the presence of a guided missile destroyer boat from Xian, a missile frigate from Hengshui, a comprehensive naval supply vessel from Gaoyou, a “peaceful ark” hospital vessel, as well as a comprehensive submarine rescue ship. Additionally, 3 ship-based helicopters, one land battle platoon, one diving/underwater platoon and a remaining 1,200 soldiers also participated in the exercises. During these exercises, China and the U.S. naval ships and vessels drilled together on issues such as maritime counterterrorism and anti-piracy.

The notice about the RIMPAC invitation referenced in the article can be found here.

(Featured image credit: BestChinaNews)

Translated by GRETCHEN TRUPP JUNE. 1, 2017

Gretchen Trupp is a Summer 2017 intern at The Carter Center China Program.