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SECDEF Carter: China Still Invited to RIMPAC 2016 Despite South China Sea Tension

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Black Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4 operates near the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and the People's Republic of China medical ship Peace Ark (T-AH 866) during a close formation of 42 ships and submarines from 15 international partner nations during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014. US Navy photo.

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Black Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4 operates near the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and the People’s Republic of China medical ship Peace Ark (T-AH 866) during a close formation of 42 ships and submarines from 15 international partner nations during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014. US Navy photo.

The United States has not revoked its invitation to China to participate in this year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise despite increasingly aggressive behavior towards its neighbors in the South China Sea because the U.S. hopes China may still participate in a “system of cooperative nations,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said April 15 aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74).

During a question and answer session with sailors, Carter was asked why China would still be allowed to join the multinational exercise despite “China’s misbehaving.”

“You’re right to use the word ‘allow,’ because actually we issued the invitations, and we have not taken the step of disinviting them,” Carter explained.
“And I’ll give you some of the logic behind that. Our approach to security in the region, as I indicated there, has always been to try to include everyone, so that’s our basic approach. So even as we stand strong and improve all of our systems and stand strong with our allies – and develop new partnerships with countries like India and Vietnam that we don’t have decades of experience with, like the Philippines; they’re all coming to us, in part because they’re concerned about China – but we’re still taking the approach of, everybody ought to work together here. So if the Chinese want to participate, I think it’s the right place for us to be. Come on, and instead of standing apart from everybody and isolating yourself and excluding yourself, try to be part of the system of cooperative nations that have made, as I said, the Asian miracle possible.”

The U.S. invited China to participate in RIMPAC for the first time in 2014 – and China, in addition to bringing its four invited warships and auxiliary ships, also staged a surveillance ship right at the edge of U.S. territorial waters to gather electronic and communications data from nearby ships and aircraft. Chinese officials said the ship’s presence near the exercise was within its rights to operate in the region.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was invited during RIMPAC 2014 to participate in RIMPAC 2016, and that invitation has not been revoked despite ongoing aggression and militarization in the South China Sea, Carter said.

People's Republic of China, People's Liberation Army (Navy) frigate PLA(N) Yueyang (FF 575) steams in formation with 42 other ships and submarines representing 15 international partner nations during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. US Navy photo.

People’s Republic of China, People’s Liberation Army (Navy) frigate PLA(N) Yueyang (FF 575) steams in formation with 42 other ships and submarines representing 15 international partner nations during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. US Navy photo.

Since the last RIMPAC exercise, however, the South China Sea has seen some tense moments. There have been numerous allegations of PLAN ships harassing Vietnamese fishing ships in Vietnamese waters, an incident where a Chinese Coast Guard cutter rammed a Chinese fishing ship that was seized by Indonesian law enforcement inside Indonesian waters, and claims that Chinese fishing ships entered other nations’ territorial waters. China has also built up reefs so aircraft can land, ships can pull into port and radars and weapons could be deployed to these artificial islands.

China has acknowledged deploying military assets on the islands – such as anti-ship cruise missiles on Woody Island – though officials insist the weapons are for self-defense purposes only.

During his troop talk aboard Stennis, Carter said that “in the South China Sea China’s actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.” Still, China’s RIMPAC invitation stands, he said.

Also during the question and answer session, Carter was asked about China’s role in cyber attacks and how the U.S. government could better protect itself.

“China is one of actually many countries that we have found engaging in cyber misbehavior,” Carter said.
“We may have made some progress forward, because when the two presidents were together now six months ago or so, they reached an agreement to stop doing that, and we’re watching and seeing if that agreement is honored,” he said of a September 2015 meeting between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping.

“We’ve got to be good at defending our networks, but you can’t count on anybody not to try to exploit networks as a way of creating vulnerability for you,” he said of the more general global threat of cyber crime, adding that the Defense Department is investment money and people in protecting the networks that warfighters use to do their jobs.

“Some of this is just from pranks. Some of it is from companies trying to steal their secrets, and some of it is by people who want to do damage, including governments that want to have the ability to do damage,” Carter said.
“So wherever it comes from, we’ve got to be able to defend ourselves in the first instance, and then people ought to know that if you attack us – I don’t care how you attack us; cyber or whatever, an attack is an attack –we’re going to respond. Not necessarily in cyber, but we’ll respond in the way we choose. But you’ll be sorry you did it.”

  • ben wah

    The U.S. is too chicken sh*t to take a stance against china it seems.

    • Banlas

      Taliban is not chicken sh*t. They are going to bomb the sh*t out of Murica in Afghanistan. Godspeed.

  • olesalt

    This could be a good strategy as the US is reaching out to China thru’ RIMPAC in a friendly gesture. It’s unlike for the moment, what is happening in the Baltic, with Russian Air Force aggressive stances.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.

    • Banlas

      Agreed. All those invited are all the enemies of the world’s greatest warmonger. Please get lost to Mar, whatever.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Mar? Please not to mention that name.

        • Banlas

          It’s that name or whatever other names. The real implication is “get lost”.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Ah, the old “shove off shitwagon” admonition — sorry, Sir, but since you didst not proffer my original invitation to participate in these here discussions, neither canst Thou revoke it.

    • Ed L

      Sun Tzu. Read that book Just hope none of the Chinese warships blow up

    • Jolly Roger

      But don’t provide them with intel and technological insights on a freaking silver platter.

      • publius_maximus_III

        I assume the only things that would be shared would be hailing radio frequencies, Oscar drills, avoiding collisions, that sort of thing — nothing of military importance. There would still be coded messages between “inside the circle” participants, I would think.

        Are English and French the international maritime languages, like they are for air traffic control world-wide? More than likely, someone aboard one of the U.S. ships speaks Mandarin, however. And I would also think any PLAN skippers participating in RIMPAC would be English speakers.

  • Craig C

    I hope we’re getting all sorts of data from them during these exercises.

    • publius_maximus_III

      That surveillance ship the PLAN sent to gather electronic and communications data from nearby ships and aircraft during last year’s RIMPAC exercise was actually being carefully monitored by a special Remora class surveillance submarine, magnetically attached to the bottom of its hull. So we now not only know all of their surveillance capabilities, but also their daily mess menus.

      It was a carefully executed gambit. The trickiest part was matching the ship’s turns and speeds, so as not to appear as a drag to the helmsmen above. “She seems a little sluggish today, Comrade Captain.”

      BTW, you have beautiful breasts.

  • bee bop

    One only need to consider that the communist control in both China and Russia is like looking down facing mirrors…so many possibilities with uncertain control. Black Sea fly byes to the Paracel Islands. You can never trust the Russians and the Chinese fit right in there

  • Aussie Andrew

    China should invite US Navy to a joint exercise of the East coast of Ibaraki.

  • bridgebuilder78

    Obama to Xi Jinping, “you know, we can’t invite you guys to rimpac if you keep stirring up trouble in the South China Sea.”

    Xi to Obama, “refresh my memory: when is the next auction date for U.S. treasuries?”

    Obama, “The next auction will be sometime after you receive an invitation to rimpac. On behalf of all American people, I cordially invite you to the naval exercise, and we’d be greatly honored if you would grace us with your presence.”

  • Hugh

    With the Chinese looking on, sensitive emissions are avoided, equipment performance is masked, speeds are kept down, noise generators are engaged, and high end manoeuvres are not undertaken.

  • muzzleloader

    Maybe the Chicoms would like to donate one of their hulls for a sink-ex.