The United States has disinvited China from participating in annual maritime exercises in the Pacific because of its "continued militarization" of the South China Sea, the Pentagon said Wednesday, cited by AFP."China's continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region", Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Logan said.
Mattis made the decision to withdraw China's invitation to take part in the Rim of the Pacific, or RimPac, naval exercises after consulting with the White House about Beijing's military moves, according to a US official.
Earlier this month the United States said it had raised concerns with China about its latest militarization of the South China Sea and said there would be near-term and long-term consequences.
Chinese officials were notified of the decision on Wednesday morning, and the news came just hours before Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, D.C.
Washington also is engaged in a sprawling trade dispute with China over US complaints about market access and technology policy.
Chinese navy multi-role frigate Hengshui fires its main gun during a gun exercise at Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), July 18, 2016.
China has not yet publicly responded to its expulsion from RIMPAC.
Exercise Rim of the Pacific is held every two years near Hawaii and Southern California.
Chinese J-15 fighter jets launch from the deck of the Liaoning aircraft carrier during military drills in the South China Sea in 2017. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in attendance and may use the podium at Shangri-La to offer a strong rebuke of Chinese activity in the South China Sea, where the U.S. continues to privilege freedom of navigation for military and civilian vessels alike.
"At the same time, it doesn't really do anything to deter China in the South China Sea", Poling said.
The action is a major step back from the unfettered military engagement policy of the Obama administration that saw reciprocal military officer and ship visits and China's participation in RIMPAC as a way to build trust with China's Communist Party-ruled military.
China's Defense Ministry also spoke out against the USA reversal on China's participation in RIMPAC.
Satellite imagery of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea.
Beijing has recently placed anti ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronics jammers on the contested Spratly Islands, along with landing bomber aircraft on Woody Island, another contested land mass.
The exclusion of the Chinese navy from the RIMPAC is expected to coerce China into reversing the militarization in these areas; thereby giving them a chance to not violate all the peace promises made by President Xi Jinping.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea but Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.
"We have canceled the invitation for the naval forces of China in the exercise of the Asia-Pacific region in 2018". China has generally participated.
Last week, China released footage of H-6K nuclear-capable bombers landing on another island in the Spratly archipelago.
The US has been complaining about China's Navy for years on end, and has mostly expressed its displeasure by sailing past Chinese islands, and saying that those operations were intended specifically to prove their displeasure at those claims.