The world’s largest naval exercises are underway off the coasts of California and Hawaii. For the first time in six-years, the exercises, called the Rim of the Pacific, do not include China. Washington withdrew Beijing’s invitation, over China’s activities in the South China Sea.
CGTN’s Nathan King is in Hawaii for the exercises.
Two years ago, China had a sizable presence here. Five ships including a new destroyer, its hospital ship, the Peace Ark, and a sophisticated submarine rescue vehicle. That vehicle operated with U.S. vessels in a simulated rescue of a distressed sub. This year, however, that close co-operation is on hold.
Timothy R. Heath advised U.S. Pacific Command for 5 years. He says the move sends s strong message.
“The withdrawal of the invitation followed the issuance of the new National Security Strategy, which, for the first time, labeled China as a competitor. I think the symbolism of the withdrawal of the invitation is to signal to China that the United States is concerned about growing Chinese influence and some of the Chinese activities in the South China Sea// and to send a subtle reminder that the United States retains an enormous network allies and partners as a means of caution to encourage China to proceed with care,” said Heath, a senior international defense researcher at the Rand Corporation.
China says it regrets the United States decision to withdraw China’s invitation. At the Shangri-la Security Conference in Singapore in June, Chinese officers said there’s an agenda behind U.S. rhetoric on the South China Sea.
“The purpose for the United States to mess up the situation is obvious. I think it is escalating the tensions to find more excuses for it to seek more military presence or actions,” said Zhao Xiaozhou a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army.
While just exercises, Chinese participation in Rimpac in 2014 and 2016 helped forge relationships at all levels of command. Both navies understood that fostering cooperation could help avoid misunderstandings for years afterward. Many other nations also welcomed China’ participation.
The symbolism and reality of the U.S. and China working under the same command was powerful reassuring smaller nations. In 2018, ships, submarines, and aircraft from 26 countries are training together. Many Asian navies are here, including for the first time the Philippines.
Arthur Dong discusses China’s exclusion from RIMPAC
What does China’s exclusion from the RIMPAC naval exercises say about the unfolding geopolitics in the region? CGTN’s Wang Guan spoke to Arthur Dong for his insight. Dong is a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.