Wednesday October 23, 2019

WILL RIMPAC AFFECT U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS?

July 2, 2014

The Rim of the Pacific naval exercise (RIMPAC) brings together more than 20 nations for a month-long naval exercise every other year. This year, 22 nations and more than 25,000 sailors and military personnel will be participating. According to Reuters, this year’s RIMPAC involves 55 vessels and more than 200 aircraft—the largest RIMPAC since its commencement. The U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet hosts the event out of Honolulu, Hawaii. For the first time since RIMPAC began in 1971, China is also participating in the drills.

An observer in 2012’s RIMPAC, China is now actively participating and is the second-largest task force there after the U.S. Beijing sent four ships–“missile destroyer Haikou, the missile frigate Yueyang, the supply ship Qiandaohu and the hospital ship Peace Ark. . .with two helicopters aboard, a commando and diving units – altogether 1,100 servicemen.”

The exercise, lasting from June 26th to August 1st, is intended to promote international maritime understanding and cooperation and to strengthen trust between nations by increasing military transparency. The intention of RIMPAC is to avert misunderstandings in maritime relations, so when a disaster or crisis occurs, nations are able to cooperate as a team and handle the situation efficiently. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, new maneuvers are added to RIMPAC’s itinerary. For example, according to U.S. Navy Chief Admiral Jonathan Greenert, last year’s RIMPAC “allowed participating forces to practice high-end ballistic missile defense, surface and anti-submarine warfare in simulations and live-fire missile and torpedo exercises.” The exercises have changed over the years as technology improves, but the intention of building international maritime cooperation and trust remains the same.

In addition to building international cooperation, RIMPAC is expected to have many other benefits. Khon2 News, a local news agency based in Honolulu, reports the 5-week event is expected to bring more than $50 million dollars into Hawaii’s local economy. Additionally, RIMPAC is expected to increase participating and observing nations’ naval capabilities. For the first time ever, this year’s exercises will include “cross-decking,” which allows sailors to be aboard another nation’s ship during a maneuver as an observer. US defense officials believe that RIMPAC will benefit both the U.S. and China by allowing the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the U.S. Navy to work together.  International maritime cooperation is especially important considering the territorial conflicts over islands in the East China Sea.

While many believe RIMPAC is a win-win situation for China and the U.S. (as well as all nations involved), others argue that RIMPAC will have no effect or an adverse effect on communication between the two world powers. Austin Strange, a researcher at the U.S. Naval war College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, believes that while China participation in RIMPAC “is unlikely to directly impact peace in the Asia-Pacific region.” Others believe that China will gain more than it contributes as a participant in the events. China may increase its naval capabilities, but China’s national interests are not expected to be reevaluated after the conclusion of RIMPAC.

With a month remaining in this year’s RIMPAC, it is difficult to predict the exact outcomes the exercise will have on international maritime relations. We will have to wait and see how China’s involvement in RIMPAC affects U.S.-China relations.

 

For more information on RIMPAC, see the following news articles:

RIMPAC-2014 Official Site

RIMPAC-“Participating Forces”

Reuters-“China looks to gain by joining big U.S.-led Pacific naval drills”

Khon2 News (local news in Honolulu, Hawaii)-“RIMPAC underway with China as first-time participant”

RT-“Chinese Navy near Hawaii: First time participation in US-led RIMPAC drills”

CATO Institute-“China’s Participation in RIMPAC Exercise: Model for Future Cooperation?”

The Diplomat-“China is Participating in RIMPAC 2014 — So What?”

For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:

 

Xinhua ( 新华)-“中国舰队抵达夏威夷参加环太平洋演习”

Xinhua ( 新华)-“参加环太平洋演习的中国舰队抵达珍珠港”

 

Compiled and Edited by Erin Monroe