Washington, May 24 (IANS) The US has withdrawn an invitation to China to participate in what has been described as the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, the Pentagon has announced.
A Pentagon spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday that “China’s behaviour is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise”, and it has “disinvited the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise”, reports CNN.
Held every two years in Hawaii, the RIMPAC exercise involves more than 20 countries from across the world, including India, Australia, Japan and the UK.
The decision to withdraw China’s invitation was made by Defence Secretary James Mattis in coordination with the White House, according to a defence 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 official told CNN that the US has its own imagery showing China’s deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and jammers on disputed islands.
Carl Schuster, Hawaii Pacific University professor and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Centre, told CNN the decision to withdraw the invitation showed “the days of appeasement are over”.
“We are now willing to take strong action diplomatically… We’re telling the Chinese that there will be diplomatic and potentially economic consequences for further aggression in the South China Sea,” he said.
Last week, China said that it landed long-range bombers for the first time on an island in the South China Sea, the latest in a series of maneuvers putting Beijing at odds with its neighbours and Washington over its growing military presence around disputed islands.
Participating in the last RIMPAC in 2016 were 45 ships, 200 aircraft and more than 25,000 people from 26 nations.