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US revokes invitation to China over ‘provocative military movement’ in the South China Sea

China was the part of RIMPAC in 2014 and 2016 but American discourse has taken a hostility route since President Donald Trump took oval office.

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Pentagon has officially announced that they have made the call to revoke the invitation, which was earlier sent, to biennial naval exercises Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018. The reason cited by Lt. Colonel Christopher Logan, the Pentagon spokesperson, was China’s deployment of bombers, surface-to-surface and anti-ship missiles to disputed Spartly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

Read more: South China Sea becomes global and regional threat

“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,” Logan said in a statement.

The decision to withdraw China’s invitation was made by Defense Secretary James Mattis in coordination with the White House, according to a US official, after Beijing’s recent deployment of missile systems and the first landing of a Chinese bomber aircraft in the South China Sea.

The idea is to help participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.

RIMPAC, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise. Held biennially during June and July of even-numbered years from Honolulu, Hawaii, it is hosted and administered by the United States Navy‘s Pacific Fleet. The US invites military forces from the Pacific Rim and beyond to participate.

With RIMPAC the United States Pacific Command seeks to enhance interoperability between Pacific Rim armed forces, ostensibly as a means of promoting stability in the region to the benefit of all participating nations. The idea is to help participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.

Read more: The South China Sea heats up as US and China lock…

The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Republic of China (Taiwan), MalaysiaIndonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The disputes include the islands, reefs, banks, and other features of the South China Sea, including the Spratly IslandsParacel Islands, and various boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin.

An estimated US$5 trillion worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea and many non-claimant states want the South China Sea to remain international waters. To promote this, several states, including the United States, conduct “freedom of navigation” operations.

“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,” Logan said in a statement.

The revoking of the official invitation of an exercise of such magnitude is not just symbolic but depicts the mounting frustration on part of United States over increasing Chinese military footprint in the disputed region. Both the countries are already at an economic war of imposing tariffs over each other’s imports. First, on April 3, Trump unveiled a list of more than 1,300 Chinese exports, which included flat-screen televisions, aircraft parts, and medical devices that he said he plans to hit with 25 percent tariffs.

Read more: What is the Importance of South China Sea for the US

The tariffs are intended to punish Beijing for restricting US investment in China and stealing American intellectual property. Combined, they would affect about $50 billion worth of Chinese exports. The very next day, China struck back, unveiling its own list of US exports that it plans to hit with 25 percent tariffs. The proposed package could affect more than 100 American-made products, including cars, airplanes, and soybeans, the top US agricultural export to China. Combined, they would cover about $50 billion worth of US exports, perfectly mirroring the US tariffs.

Though direct confrontation between the two military giants might seem implausible but symbolic gestures from both imply that it is the test of nerves.

China was the part of RIMPAC in 2014 and 2016 but American discourse has taken a hostility route since President Donald Trump took oval office. Presence of United States in the South China Sea with its mighty naval fleet and aircraft carriers is considered as provocation and threat by China. Therefore, in response, China may have decided to equip the islands with advanced of its military hardware. Though direct confrontation between the two military giants might seem implausible but symbolic gestures from both imply that it is the test of nerves.


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