China on Thursday confirmed it would send warships to join a major U.S.-hosted naval drill this 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 exercise, held every two years in Hawaii in June and July.
Critics of the Obama administration, including U.S. Senator John McCain, have said the U.S. should bar China from the drills to show U.S. disapproval of its military actions.
The U.S. and its allies have expressed growing concern over the Asian giant’s military buildup, 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,” Wu Qian, a spokesman of China’s Ministry of Defense, told a regular briefing.
China would send warships to participate, he said, but did not say how many or what kind.
“Needless to say, military relations between China and the U.S. have some difficulties and obstacles,” he added.
Beijing defends deployments in islands
China “really needs” its defenses in the South China Sea in the face of a militarization process being pushed by the United States, and can deploy whatever equipment it wants on its own soil, Wu said.
China and the United States have sparred repeatedly over the past week following reports China is deploying advanced missiles, fighters and radar equipment on islands in the South China Sea, especially on Woody Island in the Paracels.
“The United States is the real promoter of the militarization of the South China Sea,” he said.
“China’s construction of military facilities on the islands and reefs of the South China Sea is really needed. The Paracel Islands are China’s ‘inherent territory'”, he said.
People are “dazzled” by the endless hyping up by U.S. media of equipment China is deploying in the South China Sea.
“One minute, it’s air defense missiles, then radars, then various types of aircraft — who knows what tomorrow will bring in terms of new equipment being hyped up,” he said.