The United States has disinvited China from an upcoming large-scale multinational naval drill, terming it as a response to Beijing’s alleged militarization of islands in the South China Sea.
“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,” a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
The spokesman did not specify what else the US government might do to respond but stressed there was “strong evidence” that China had deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands, the report said.
The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC, is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise, held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.
China had attended the exercises previously but has been kept out of the drill this year.
China’s foreign minister criticized the US decision, describing it as “unconstructive”.
“We find that a very unconstructive move,” Wang Yi told reporters in Washington after meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The minister described China’s activity in the South China Sea as self-defense, saying it was working on a “much smaller scale” than what the US had done in Hawaii and Guam.
“We hope that the US will change such a negative mindset.”
Over the weekend China’s air force landed bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the region, according to reports.
Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody Island in the Paracel island chain.
Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the images showed China had also deployed J-11 combat aircraft as part of its exercises.
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