By Guo Yuandan
The U.S. Department of Defense on May 23 decided to disinvite China from the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) international military exercise next month as a reaction, it said, to China's continued militarization in the South China Sea.
Experts said that not participating in some multilateral exercise was no big deal for China. In fact, many of China's own exercises in the annual training program are more realistic and can better improve its defense combat capacity.
The RIMPAC exercise is a biennial multilateral maritime military exercise led by the US Navy. The Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) confirmed in January this year that it received the invitation from the American side, the third time it has been invited to participate in the exercise.
The reporter learnt that after receiving the invitation, the Chinese side assigned people to attend the RIMPAC mid-term and end-term planning meetings and preparations were under way all the time. Now all relevant work stops.
A military expert who wished to remain anonymous told Global Times on the morning of May 24 that the disinvitation was final, and China won't take part in the RIMPAC this time.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded to this when he stopped at Washington on his way back from a visit to Argentina on May 23, local time.
According to news from China News Service, Wang Yi said this decision made by Washington was perfunctory and not constructive and would undermine mutual understanding and trust between the two countries. The US should give up this kind of negative thinking.
Both China and the US are world powers, and they can totally carry out cooperation and build mutual trust concerning maritime security issues. That's the right way to jointly contribute to world peace and stability, Wang Yi said.
In the statement of disinviting China from the RIMPAC, the US Department of Defense said, "we have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, ground-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers on the disputed features of the Nansha Islands. The landing of Chinese bombers on the Yongxing Island also exacerbated the tension."
The US requested China to dismantle those systems immediately and withdraw the militarization efforts on disputed islands of the South China Sea.
A military expert, who also asked for anonymity, said China's islands and reefs construction in the South China Sea won't be affected in any way. Instead, it will intensify the defense capacity on the islands and reefs according to the level of threat.
A person familiar with the matter said on the morning of May 24 that the disinvitation came as a surprise and the accusation made by the US was groundless.
China enhanced its defense capacity on South China Sea islands exactly because of the persistent and long-term provocations made by the American military in nearby waters, the person said.
The South China Sea used to be very peaceful, and China and all countries in the region are committed to safeguarding its peace and development, but the US seems determined to make waves in the region, and China definitely needs to put up a defensive front, the person said.
But he also said the disinvitation wasn't a "serious setback in China-US military relations". In fact in the military relations between the two countries, the US is always doubtful and averse to China's military development, and the disinvitation is just a reflection of its fundamental attitude.
According to the anonymous military expert, America's disinvitation of China to RIMPAC is bad for the development of bilateral military relations. In the previous statement welcoming the Chinese Navy to participate in RIMPAC, the American side said China's participation is beneficial for reducing the misunderstanding and misjudgment between the two militaries, for them to jointly deal with maritime threats, and for developing the relations between the two countries and militaries.
But such "benefit" goes both ways. China doesn't have any urgent need for the US. In fact, it's quite to the contrary. The US invited China to take part in the RIMPAC exercise in order to know more about the Chinese Navy and reduce misunderstanding and misjudgment. But for China, it's no big deal whether it takes part in one more exercise or not.
This view was echoed by the related person mentioned above. According to him, China didn't pay much attention to the disinvitation. "If America welcomes us, China is willing to participate as an important country in the Asia Pacific, but if it doesn't, we will carry out our own military exercises according to the annual plan, which can better improve our defense combat capability."
These remarks reveal more than their literal meaning. The Chinese Navy participated in the RIMPAC twice before, but it was only engaged in non-traditional security subjects such as search and rescue, anti-pirate operations and submarine aid, because the US didn't open up traditional security subjects like anti-submarine operations and air defenses to China.
Disclaimer: The author is Guo Yuandan, reporter with the Global Times. The article is translated from Chinese into English by the China Military online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author from the Global Times and do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn. Chinamil.com.cn does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. If the article carries photographs or images, we do not vouch for their authenticity.