Chinese troops are set to take part in disaster relief exercises in Hawaii tomorrow, in what China’s state media billed as the first time the country’s soldiers have drilled on U.S. territory.
People’s Liberation Army soldiers will take part in humanitarian assistance drills in Hawaii until Nov. 14 with their U.S. counterparts, simulating relief operations after an earthquake hits a third country, according to a report on the website of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper.
The drills, which follow a series of naval exercises off Hawaii in September, reflect deepened military ties between the U.S. and China even as they square off over allegations of Chinese military hacking and China’s territorial disputes with U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines.
Chinese ships are set to take part next year in the RIMPAC war games off the Hawaiian coast, multinational exercises that bring together militaries from across the Pacific Rim. While China has observed RIMPAC before, 2014 will mark the first time it’s ever joined the drills.
Even as cooperation intensifies, competition between the two militaries is also on the rise. China’s defense budget has more than doubled since 2006 and last year it commissioned its first aircraft carrier. Still, the U.S. defense budget, the world’s largest, is five times the size of China’s announced military spending.
Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters Nov. 5 that tomorrow’s Hawaii drills will help foster trust.
“These types of exercises give us a good place to start and to kind of get into the rhythm of understanding and trusting each other,” Locklear said. “I think it’ll be a great exercise.”
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