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The Rim of the Pacific, which the Defense Department calls the world's biggest global maritime exercise, was established in 1971 by the U.S., Australia and Canada and has included the armed forces of many nations, including China.

A Pentagon statement on Wednesday said the withdrawal of the invitation for the Chinese navy to participate in the Pacific Rim drills is "an initial response" to what it called China's militarization of the South China Sea. "China's continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region", Logan said, according to the U.S. China's air force recently announced it landed nuclear-capable bombers on one of the islands.

The South China Sea plays host to countless territorial disputes between China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

"China is only building civilian and some necessary defense facilities on our own islands", he said.

Senior Western diplomats describe the placement of troops or jet fighters on the islands as a looming test of worldwide efforts to curb China's determination to dominate the vital trade waterway.

The Pentagon explained that China's increased military presence on disputed islands was the reason behind their decision.

The minister described China's activity in the South China Sea as self-defense, saying it was working on a "much smaller scale" than what the USA had done in Hawaii and Guam.

Earlier in May, the CNBC reported, citing sources in USA intelligence, that China had installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its military posts on the South China Sea's Spratly Islands - the Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef.

Patrick Cronin, an Asia scholar at the Center for a New American Security, said the move was a "welcome slap" on the wrist in response to China's buildup in contested waters and its decision to largely ignore a 2016 ruling challenging its maritime claims.

In May, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said allowing China to take part in RIMPAC was "the sort of thing that brings us all together in sort of positive, constructive ways".

Pentagon withdraws China's invitation to 2018 RimPac naval exercises off Hawaii

Fanell is a long-time critic of unfettered military engagement with China and stated in a recent article that the initial invitation in June 2017 would "someday be remembered as the formal beginning of the end of USA influence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region".

An invitation to the exercises, which are held in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, carries some political weight as it offers legitimacy and acceptance to participating military forces.

The Chinese military sent five vessels to take part in the 2016 exercises, including the missile destroyer Xi'an, the missile frigate Hengshui and the supply ship Gaoyouhu.

The biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC, is set to occur in June and involves more than two-dozen nations.

Washington and Beijing are already engaged in high-level dialogues to resolve disputes over a record trade deficit China has with the United States, restrictions that foreign companies in the country face in terms of market access, and forced transfers of technology to Chinese companies. Participation in RIMPAC is a sign of legitimacy in the eyes of the global community.

"When objectively examined there is scant empirical proof that navy-to-navy engagement with the PRC has changed or will change their behavior", Fanell stated in a U.S. Naval Institute article in July.

The People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN) participation in the RIMPAC since 2014 has been a contentious issue as critics of Beijing have argued that Washington should not accommodate a rival power that consistently commits aggression and is actively undermining the USA position in the Pacific region.

The United States does not take an official position on the competing sovereignty claims. It also comes a day after President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Zucker: Trump "secretly watching CNN" all day and night GOP candidate behind "Deportation Bus" loses in gubernatorial bid Penn to Hewitt: Mueller probe born out of "hysteria" MORE appeared to hint he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping is playing spoiler in his planned summit with North Korea's leader.

China is "using techniques and tools below the threshold of armed conflict as a way to coerce the behaviour of other countries and ultimately be able to establish its claims [in the South China Sea], whether or not they are consistent with worldwide law", Evan Medeiros, the managing director of Asia at the Eurasia Group, said this week in a panel discussion organised by the National Committee on US-China Relations.

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