January 25, 2018 / 10:22 AM / 7 months ago

China says has been invited again to U.S.-hosted naval drills

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday that China has again been invited to attend a major U.S.-hosted naval drill this year, even as tensions simmer between the two countries over the disputed South China Sea.

Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a monthly news briefing that it had received an invite to the exercise and had sent a team to discuss initial arrangements with the United States. He did not elaborate.

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, and China has attended previously.

Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up, whereas Chinese officials have accused Washington of viewing their country in suspicious, “Cold War” terms.

China decried last week’s freedom of navigation operation by a U.S. warship in the South China Sea as an infringement of its sovereignty.

But the two countries also share a common interest in maintaining regional stability, and both have in recent years made efforts to counter mistrust, including holding humanitarian relief drills and setting up a military hotline to reduce the risk of miscalculations.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

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