The United States has revoked an invitation to China to the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). The world’s largest joint naval exercise is hosted by the U.S. and held every two years.
The June-August 2018 exercises would have been the third consecutive time The People’s Liberation Army Navy would have attended the exercises.
“The United States is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region,” U.S. Department of Defense Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan said in a press release.
In response to a question about the takeoff and landing of the Chinese Air Force’s H-6K bomber in the South China Sea in May, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman said on May 20, “The South China Sea Islands are China’s territory. The relevant military activities are the normal training of the Chinese military and there is no need for other parties to over-interpret that. “
Last week the PLA Air Force landed its H6k bomber aircraft on an airport in the South China Sea, marking the first time bombers have used an airport the region.
The planes took off from an undisclosed air base in South China and made a simulated strike against sea targets before landing on an island in the South China Sea, the Air Force said in a statement last Friday.
Wang Mingliang, a researcher at the PLA Air Force Command College, was quoted in the statement saying that the exercises on islands in the South China Sea will help the Air Force strengthen its combat capability to deal with marine security threats.
The H-6K is the PLA’s most advanced bomber and is capable of carrying supersonic cruise missiles to make precision strikes against land targets or ships, China Daily reported.
Analysts speculate that the aircraft has a flight range of about 3,500 kilometers while China’s CJ-10 series cruise missiles have a minimum range of 1,500 km, which means the bomber is able to hit targets at least 5,000 km from where it takes off, China Daily reported.
“As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise,” Logan said.
“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,” Logan said.
“While China has maintained that the construction of the islands is to ensure safety at sea, navigation assistance, search and rescue, fisheries protection, and other non-military functions the placement of these weapon systems is only for military use,” he added. The spokesman said that the U.S. has called on China to remove the systems and to “reverse course on the militarization of disputed South China Sea features.”
The RIMPAC exercise is about enhancing security around the Pacific Rim-based on rules set by the U.S. and its allies after World War II. RIMPAC started in 1971 and was an annual event until 1974 when it went to being held every two years because of the event’s scale. There are around 27 countries slated to participate in RIMPAC 2018, according to the U.S. Navy.