US disinvites China, invites Vietnam to world's largest naval exercise

By Nguyen Quy   May 31, 2018 | 08:59 pm PT
US disinvites China, invites Vietnam to world's largest naval exercise
More than 40 ships and submarines representing 15 international partner nations travel in formation in the Pacific Ocean during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 exercise. Photo by Reuters
RIMPAC invite to China rescinded amidst growing east tensions in the region.

For the first time, Vietnam will be a guest at the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise, one of the world’s largest multinational naval drills held every two years, according to American military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

The paper said on Thursday that it was the first time that the U.S. has invited Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Israel to the June 27- August 2 exercise.

The international maritime exercise is expected to mobilize 26 nations, 47 surface ships, five submarines, 18 national land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 naval forces.

The exercise will include disaster relief, maritime control and drills.

Vietnam’s first-ever involvement in RIMPAC marks a major thaw in ties between former foes as also a significant step forward in their military relations.

The Pentagon last month uninvited China from the major U.S.-hosted naval drill in response to Beijing’s militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea, known as the East Sea in Vietnam, a move China called unconstructive.

“The move was a first step in protesting China’s actions in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has expanded those islands through dredging, then built infrastructure upon them, some of which is useful only for military operations," said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Defense Department spokesman.

RIMPAC, which was first held in 1971, is aimed at promoting naval cooperation among countries and stability in the region.

Last March, U.S. aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson’s historic visit to the central city of Da Nang marked a monumental milestone in the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

The event garnered global attention, it being the first time a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier has docked in the country, four decades after the end of the Vietnam War.

Defense relations between Vietnam and the U.S. have strengthened since 2016, when President Obama decided to lift the ban on the sale of assault weapons to Vietnam. The Trump administration has also identified Vietnam as a “cooperative maritime partner.”

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