China has been invited to attend the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, despite on-going tensions in the South China Sea.
The U.S. Navy confirmed that all 26 nations that participated in RIMPAC 2016 have been invited to return. If China accepts, it will be the third time the nation has participated. Five PLAN ships participated in the 2016 exercises: a destroyer, a frigate, a submarine rescue ship, a supply ship and a hospital ship.
Russia has not been invited back since RIMPAC 2012, although an intelligence ship and a destroyer shadowed RIMPAC participants in 2014 and 2016.
Exact dates for RIMPAC 2018 are yet to be announced.
Countries that participated in RIMPAC 2016 were Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, China, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the U.K. and the U.S.
The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC started in 1971. The U.S. Navy-hosted event provides a unique training opportunity that fosters cooperative relationships that the Navy says are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans.
Over 40 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in RIMPAC 2016, more countries and personnel than in any previous years.