Whilst Washington will not mark the founding of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy later this month, Japan and South Korea are expected to send vessels and officials. The US Embassy in Beijing’s defence attache office will instead represent the US at the fleet review on April 22. Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Dave Eastburn said: “The US government seeks a bilateral relationship that is results oriented and focused on risk reduction.”
In an interview for the Japan Times he added: “The US Navy will continue to pursue its primary goal of constructive, risk-reduction focus.”
Lt Col Eastburn added that this would include continued engagement with the Chinese Navy “through established military-to-military dialogues, such as the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement working groups and Rules of Behaviour discussions.”
The US decision to skip the key naval anniversary “is definitely a sign of tougher policies toward China” by the Trump White House, according to Hong Kong-based Lingnan University Centre for Asian Pacific Studies director Zhang Baohui.
China’s Defence Ministry last week claimed that over 60 nations would see naval delegations attending a large April 22 parade, an event that will boast a fleet review and inspection with navy ships from several nations including the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.
Unconfirmed media reports have suggested that Russia and France would each send aircraft carriers as well as high-ranking military officials to commemorate the occasion, according to The Japan Times.
This rejection of the invitation comes amid rising tensions between the US and China over what are perceived to be China’s ever growing incursions into this vast region in order to secure resources and trade routes.
The US has monitored China’s movements with concern as the South China Sea is a vital trade route in the global supply chain used by American companies who produce goods in the region.
The sea is also believed to contain major reserves of natural resources, such as natural gas and oil.
The US Energy Information Administration estimates the area contains at least 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Other estimates are as high as 22 billion barrels of oil and 290 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Beijing, sparking regional anger, has in recent years quickly built up several military outposts on sensitive marine ecosystems, reefs and islands in the South China Sea.
More than £3 trillion in global trade passes annually through this region.