The Chinese Defense Ministry criticized the United States on Thursday for withdrawing China’s invitation to participate in the Rim of the Pacific international military exercise (RIMPAC). The U.S. rescinded the invitation due to China’s aggressive militarization of the South China Sea.
China is traditionally invited to RIMPAC, held every two years in Hawaii, as a means to defuse tensions and promote communication between China and the American alliance.
The Chinese Defense Ministry said the U.S. “ignored the facts and hyped up the so-called ‘militarization’ of the South China Sea” to create an excuse for disinviting China.
“This decision by the United States is not constructive. Closing the door to communication at any time is not conducive toward promoting mutual trust and communication between the Chinese and U.S. militaries,” the Defense Ministry said.
On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry chided the U.S. for “over-interpreting” the landing of heavy long-range bombers in the Paracel Islands, an event mentioned by the Pentagon as one reason for pulling China’s invitation to RIMPAC, along with the deployment of missile and electronic warfare systems to disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The Defense Ministry on Thursday said the United States “has no right to make irresponsible remarks” about China’s military buildup in the region.
“Being invited or not cannot change China’s will to play a role in protecting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and cannot shake China’s firm determination to defend its sovereignty and security interests,” the ministry declared.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that he had a “good discussion” with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi about the militarization of the South China Sea.
When a reporter asked about the withdrawn RIMPAC invitation, Wang replied:
On the Pentagon’s decision or disinvitation of Chinese military in the RIMPAC exercise, we find that a very unconstructive move, nonconstructive move. It’s also a decision that’s taken lightly. It’s unhelpful to mutual understanding between China and the U.S. We hope the U.S. will change such a negative mindset. Both China, the U.S. are big countries, and we are well positioned to have greater cooperation at sea. Mil-to-mil exchanges will help to increase mutual trust. It will also help us to make greater efforts towards world peace and stability.
On the so-called militarization in the South China Sea, we talked about this issue just now. China is only building civilian and some necessary defense facilities on our own islands. That is the right to self-defense and preservation of every sovereign state. It is a normal deployment and has nothing to do with militarization, just like the U.S. has military presence in Hawaii, in Guam. And China’s deployment is at a much smaller scale than the U.S. It’s just out of necessary defense purposes. We don’t hope to see any exaggeration or hype-up of this matter.
Pompeo confirmed that he discussed RIMPAC with Wang, but did not elaborate on his side of the conversation.