RIMPAC snub hurts Sino-US military ties

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/24 23:43:40

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it has withdrawn an invitation to China to participate in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, saying it is an "initial response to China's continued militarization of the South China Sea." Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is now visiting the US, called the US decision a very unconstructive move.

From the Pentagon statement, it is not hard to see that Washington treats inviting China to participate in RIMPAC as a gift to Beijing, and according to US media, joining the exercise can bring participants' political prestige.

But the Chinese government and military do not think as much of it as Washington.

The Nansha Islands upon which China is constructing are Chinese territory and under China's actual control. China has not taken the islands and reefs illegally occupied by other nations by force because of this reason, nor has Beijing used this reason to coerce any country in the region. China has publicly stated that construction on the islands is mainly for civilian services. The deployment of some weapons on the islands is aimed at safeguarding national territory. Compared with other countries' military actions, China's move has been moderate and restrained.

Given the fact that the US is investing increasing military power in the West Pacific, China's surrounding oceans have become an increasingly crucial frontier to maintain national security.

Even with multiplying pressure from the US in the South China Sea, China has remained calm and sought to strengthen constructive communication with Washington.

But what China does on its own territory is a matter of China's sovereignty. Washington should not tie the Nansha Islands up with other issues. When it comes to the disputes, China, Vietnam and the Philippines have things under control with no signs of serious friction at the moment. Intervention by external forces has long been the main source of tensions in the South China Sea. Whether Beijing and Washington can control their game in the water has surpassed regional controversies and become the No.1 risk in the region.

It seems that Washington is unfolding its moves to treat China as its main strategic opponent. Military cooperation between the two, quite limited previously, may further diminish. But once the two sides extend their distance apart, the losses won't affect only one side. Military suspicions between the two will worsen and misjudgment will occur more easily.

Unfortunately, this may be the future trend of Sino-US military ties. China will probably face an increasingly unfriendly US military. It must thus accelerate building up its armed forces so as to win US respect in regions of Beijing's core interest.

The South China Sea is a place where China must not make concessions to the US. If Washington increases its military activities in the water, Beijing's military deployment there will be further strengthened. The peace between China and the US in the South China Sea is vital, but the basis for that peace must be balance of power and mutual respect rather than making China accept US rules.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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