Every two years, the US holds what has become the world's largest maritime warfare exercise off Hawaii. The Rim of the Pacific Exercise, or RIMPAC Exercise, reached a zenith in 2016, with 26 countries and 25,000 personnel involved—a record. It was China's second time participating, having first been invited in 2014, reported the Diplomat at the time. This year won't mark its third time. CNN reports the Pentagon on Wednesday said it has pulled China's invite as its "behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise." At issue: its moves in the South China Sea. Amid the Paracel Islands there—which Taiwan and Vietnam have also laid claim to—sits Woody Island, which China deployed long-range bombers to for the first time last week.
The former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center tells CNN China was granted entry into the 2016 RIMPAC exercise after President Xi Jinping promised he wouldn't militarize the artificial islands there. The Diplomat looks at what's in the cards for China and expects it to follow up with a similar move on some of the man-made Spratly Islands, and that has real military implications, as the H-6K bomber's range from those islands and Woody Island includes all of Southeast Asia, minus portions of Myanmar and Indonesia. Reuters last week looked at the construction on one of the Spratly Islands, Subi Reef, and noted some 400 buildings have now been constructed there. Experts speculate China could be intending to eventually deploy marines to the island. (Read more China stories.)