China in talks to participate with US in large-scale military drills: report

China in talks to participate with US in large-scale military drills: report
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Chinese officials said Thursday that Beijing is in talks with the United States to participate in the world's largest international maritime warfare exercises this summer, The Associated Press reported.

China had already been formally invited to take part in the exercises, which are known as Rim of the Pacific and hosted by the U.S. Navy, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters.

“We are now discussing details with the U.S. side on arrangements for China’s participation,” Wu said.

China has twice before joined in the exercises, which are held every other year. In 2016, the drill included 45 ships, 200 aircraft and more than 25,000 people from 26 countries.

The South China Sea is one of the most contested areas in the world, and China for years has raised tensions with neighboring nations and the U.S. by staking territorial claims and engaging in island building.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump learns to love acting officials Shanahan says he's 'never favored' Boeing as acting Defense chief Trump moves to install loyalists MORE reflected this concern in listing countering Chinese aggression as one of the top goals in the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy (NDS).

“China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea,” the NDS notes.

China, in turn, has often accused the United States of illegally trespassing into what it sees as its territorial waters.

In the latest incident, Beijing on Saturday said the U.S. Navy trespassed when the USS Hopper, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 22 kilometers of Scarborough Shoal earlier in the week.

The Chinese seized the uninhabited reef from the Philippines in 2012.

The United States does not recognize China’s sovereignty claim over the islands and sees it as an effort to limit freedom of navigation. In 2017, the Navy conducted several operations to challenge Beijing’s stance.

Mattis said last June that he had spoken to Chinese officials about Beijing's claims in the region.

“We will continue to work to close gaps in our understanding and to work some kind of manner in the future that removes these irritants,” Mattis said at the time.