A view of the Chinese guided missile frigate Yan Tai at Qingdao is pictured in September. The U.S. welcomes China's participation in the RIMPAC naval exercises next year, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Wednesday during an official visit to the country. (Larry Downing / AFP)
BEIJING — The United States welcomes China’s participation in U.S.-led joint naval exercises next year, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Wednesday during an official visit to the country.
“We welcome China’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise in 2014,” Mabus said in a statement distributed by the U.S. embassy in Beijing.
The embassy could not confirm if China had formally accepted the invitation to participate, made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta when he visited China in September.
Some 22 nations and more than 40 vessels took part in the latest round of the international maritime exercises, described by the U.S. Navy as the world’s largest, which took place from June 29 to August 3 around the Hawaiian Islands.
The U.S. invitation comes as Washington tries to reassure Beijing over its strategic “pivot” to the Pacific and China’s growing assertiveness in territorial disputes with several Asian neighbors.
“Cooperating with China to realize shared goals is important to the maintenance of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and central to our approach,” Mabus said.
China said Sunday it had carried out the first landing of a fighter jet on its new aircraft carrier in a move that extends Beijing’s ability to project its growing military might in territorial disputes.
Tensions between China and Japan, a U.S. ally, have risen dramatically in recent months over islands in the East China Sea which Beijing calls the Diaoyus and Tokyo, which administers them, names the Senkakus.
China is locked in similar rows with Vietnam and the Philippines over disputed territory in the South China Sea.
At a key Communist Party congress earlier this month, outgoing President Hu Jintao urged China to push forward fast-paced military modernization and set the goal of becoming a “maritime power”.