China joining US-hosted naval drill

Chinese Navy submarines and warships take part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao.
Chinese Navy submarines and warships take part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China has confirmed it will send warships to join a major United States-hosted naval drill in the summer, even as tension between the world's two largest economies mounts over the South China Sea.

The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as Rimpac, is billed as the world's largest international maritime drill, held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.

Critics of the Obama administration, including Senator John McCain, have said the US should bar China from the drills to show US disapproval of its military actions.

The US and its allies have expressed growing concern over the Asian giant's military build-up, as well as its increasingly assertive posture in the South China Sea.

"Joining these military exercises will be beneficial to improving the Chinese navy's ability to contend with non-traditional security threats," China's Ministry of Defence spokesman Wu Qian told a regular briefing. "At the same time, it will also be beneficial to deepening... professional exchanges and pragmatic cooperation with the relevant countries' navies."

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China will send warships to participate, the spokesman said, but did not say how many or what kind. "Needless to say, military relations between China and the US have some difficulties and obstacles," he added, citing US arms sales to Taiwan and reconnaissance by US warships near Chinese territory.


While military planners cannot ignore any contingency, and in a system of sovereign states the possibility of war can never be entirely discounted, war is not a very probable scenario. I think war is highly improbable. Neither the US nor China is looking for trouble or spoiling for a fight. The essential priorities of both are internal, not external. Of course, neither is going to roll over and let the other tickle its tummy. That is not how great powers behave.

SINGAPORE'S AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE BILAHARI KAUSIKAN, in his second of five lectures yesterday as the Institute of Policy Studies' second S R Nathan Fellow, on rising US-China tensions.

also criticised US patrols in the South China Sea.

Admiral Harry Harris, chief of the US Pacific Command, has said he wants to build ties between the two militaries, but has also strongly criticised China's actions in the South China Sea.

Since last October, the US Navy has conducted two freedom- of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, saying these are an important way of upholding international law.

On Wednesday, he said the US would increase the freedom-of- navigation missions.

"We will be doing them more, and we will be doing them with greater complexity in the future and... we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows," Adm Harris told a hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

A day earlier, he also said China was "changing the operational landscape" in the South China Sea by deploying missiles and radar as part of an effort to militarily dominate East Asia. China, however, insists that its military facilities are "legal and appropriate".

Past participants in Rimpac have included nations such as Russia, which are not treaty allies with the US. China took part in 2014 with more than 20 countries, but defence officials have said its participation was limited to areas such as humanitarian relief and search and rescue operations.



A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2016, with the headline 'China joining US-hosted naval drill'. Print Edition | Subscribe