U.S. to invite China to join world's largest naval exercises
In a July 18, 2012 file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) are underway during the Great Green Fleet demonstration portion of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise. (AP / U.S. Navy, Ryan Mayes)
Published Wednesday, September 19, 2012 8:14PM EDT
HONOLULU -- The U.S. intends to ask China to a send a ship to join the world's largest maritime exercises for the first time in Hawaiian waters in two years.
The Navy will invite the Asian nation to send a ship to the 2014 Rim of the Pacific exercises, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.
China sent military observers to watch the drills in 1998 but has never sent a vessel.
Panetta said he discussed ways to extend co-operation between the two militaries during a meeting with China's national defence minister, Gen. Liang Guanglie.
The defence secretary noted that China and the U.S. participated this week in an exercise to counter pirates in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen.
"To build on this positive momentum, I informed General Liang today that the United States Navy will invite China to send a ship to participate in RIMPAC 2014 exercise," Panetta said in a transcript of the news conference provided by the Pentagon.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet hosts the drills every two years.
This year, 22 countries participated, including Japan, Russia and South Korea. The exercises lasted over a month and included 25,000 sailors and other military personnel, 42 surface ships, six submarines and 200 aircraft.
It's not clear what role China would play during the next drills.
"There are a lot of details to work out in the next 18 months for all nations participating in RIMPAC 2014, including China," Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Darryn James said in a statement.
Each nation has a chance to train for its objectives, and all participant objectives would be considered during planning, he said.
The exercises date back to 1971 and have expanded in recent years. Eight nations took part in 2006, 10 in 2008, and 14 two years ago.