RIMPAC, the largest naval exercises in the world, will include the 4 Quad nations and the 5 South China Sea countries

In total, the exercises, based in Honolulu and San Diego, will see military units from 26 countries participate from June 29 to August 4. They will employ 38 surface ships, four submarines and 170 aircraft in the exercises, the US Navy’s 3rd Fleet said in a statement Tuesday. Around 25,000 people will take part, including ground troops from nine countries.

A ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ is an American mantra as China builds up its forces and expands its reach in the region, including by militarizing the South China Sea islands, which it claims almost all as its sovereign territory. .

Three nations with competing claims to China – the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei – will participate in RIMPAC 2022. Indonesia, which borders the South China Sea and has experienced recent maritime tensions with China, will also participate, as will Singapore, which sits at the southwestern entrance to the 1.3 million square mile sea.

Meanwhile, the Quad countries – the United States, India, Japan and Australia – have deepened their military cooperation as all have seen growing competition with China in the region.

The four countries have held two naval exercises since 2020. Meanwhile, their leaders have met four times since last year, including at in-person summits at the White House last September and most recently on May 24 in Tokyo.

The drills will include exercises focusing on “amphibious operations, artillery, missiles, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as counter-piracy operations, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance and diving and salvage operations,” the US Navy said. .

“RIMPAC 2022 contributes to the increased interoperability, resilience and agility needed…to deter and defeat great power aggression in all domains and at all levels of conflict.

“During RIMPAC, a network of capable and adaptable partners train and operate together to enhance their collective strengths and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, decried the grouping as an Asian “NATO”, accusing it of “trumpeting Cold War mentality” and “fuelling geopolitical rivalry”.
RIMPAC 2022 also includes Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom.

Carl Schuster, former director of operations for the Joint Intelligence Center at US Pacific Command, said that in addition to military value, the RIMPAC lineup shows the political influence Washington maintains around the world.

“It signifies the strength and breadth of America’s global maritime partnerships, a very important deterrent signal to any would-be aggressor who might believe that Washington’s influence and strategic position, particularly that of its navy, are in decline.

“RIMPAC’s broad international participation proves that is not the case,” Schuster said.

He also noted the inclusion of the Pacific island nation of Tonga in the exercises at a time when China is making efforts to increase its influence among smaller South Pacific countries.

The next exercises will be the 28th edition of RIMPAC, which began in 1971.

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