|Chinese Navy Warships on patrol (File Photo)|
By: Christopher P. Cavas
WASHINGTON – Despite ongoing tensions in the South China Sea and several recent tense aerial confrontations, China has been invited to attend next year’s U.S.-hosted Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, the U.S. Navy confirmed Monday.
“All 26 nations that participated in RIMPAC 2016 have been invited to return for RIMPAC 2018,” Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a spokesman for the San Diego-based U.S. Third Fleet, said Monday in response to a query.
The Pentagon granted permission for China to be included among the participating nations invited to a June planning conference in San Diego, Ryan confirmed, following Congressionally-mandated guidelines governing military-to-military and naval-to-naval engagements with China. Further approvals will need to be obtained for two more planning conferences as the exercises approach, Ryan confirmed.
RIMPAC, held every two years, is billed as the world’s largest naval exercise and is usually centered on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The exercises, sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Fleet and hosted by the subordinate Third Fleet, run over several weeks and include numerous social and athletic engagements before heading to sea for a variety of operating scenarios.
Countries participating in the 2016 RIMPAC exercises were Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States. According to the Third Fleet, the armada assembled for the 2016 exercises included 45 surface ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.
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