China confirms participation in US naval exercise amid South China Sea tensions

The People's Liberation Army (Navy) hospital ship Peace Ark (T-AH 866) and the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014. Image: US Navy

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy) will be taking part in the U.S. Navy-organized international maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), with a yet to be determined number of units.

Wu Qian, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed this at a regular briefing despite of recently heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over the South China Sea territorial disputes.

The RIMPAC is dubbed as the world’s largest naval exercise and takes place every two years.

The 2014 edition of the exercise hosted 22 nations, 49 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel for drills in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

Reuters reported U.S. officials calling on Obama to ban China from participating in international military drills to express discontent with Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

However, no official response by the U.S. Department of Defense has been made as per the Chinese announcement of participation in the exercise.

Wu Qian said that China was ready to work alongside with U.S. despite of the deteriorated diplomatic relation between the countries: “We are ready to work with the US side to strengthen strategic communication, improve mutual trust, and properly deal with differences, so as to push forward the healthy and stable development of the new type of China-US mil-to-mil relationship.”

“China attaches importance to the exercise and will send naval ships to take part in the exercise. Since last year, the Chinese side has sent teams to take part in two planning conferences for the joint exercise, and held consultations with the US side on relevant issues of the Chinese side’s participation.”

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