Service members from Chinese and U.S. navies observe a gun exercise from the bridge of Chinese Navy multirole frigate Hengshui during Rim of the Pacific 2016. The United States on Wednesday rescinded its offer for China to take part in the biannual military exercise in 2018. Photo by PLA Navy/UPI | License Photo
May 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Defense Wednesday rescinded China's invitation to participate in an international maritime exercise due to its actions in the South China Sea.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the Defense Department has withdrawn its invitation to the Chinese military to participate in June's Rim of the Pacific naval exercise alongside about two dozen other nations.
"China's continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region," Logan said.
China has been invited to the biannual military drill since 2014, and the statement said the decision to revoke China's invitation was an initial response to Beijing's South China Sea activities.
"We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. China's landing bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions," the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon added it has called for China to demilitarize islands in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims sovereignty over.
"We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the world," the Pentagon said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi condemned the move as "unconstructive" on Wednesday.
"We hope the U.S. will change such a negative mindset," he said. "China is only building civilian and some necessary defense facilities on our own islands. That is the right to self-defense and preservation of every sovereign state."