22 nations assemble for military exercise
By William Cole | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: July 2, 2012
Honolulu — So many nations are participating in this year's Rim of the Pacific war games off Hawaii that China feels left out.
"Watching from afar, China is feeling uncomfortable," wrote the Global Times, published under the auspices of the Communist Party of China. "But it should be forgotten soon. The exercise is nothing but a big party held by the U.S. which is in a melancholy state of mind due to difficult realities."
Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies in Honolulu, sees the reasons for the significant growth in the maritime maneuvers.
"Only until a decade ago, until Sept. 11, 2001, we were still thinking (in terms of) a Cold War/post-Cold War world in which the chief challenges we were dealing with were predominately state-based challenges," he said.
Sept. 11 was the first time that the United States truly understood the nature of transnational security challenges, he said.
"Terrorism isn't about states," Glosserman said.
Glosserman said countries in the region are slowly beginning to appreciate the value of the maritime cooperation that is practiced through RIMPAC.
"I think all of this is pushing us to more greatly value the need for maritime cooperation," Glosserman said. "If you think about it, the seas are where all the countries meet."
Natural disasters, including devastating tsunamis in Indonesia in 2004 and in Japan in 2011, also showed the need for broad, ship-based military relief.
Participating nations in the biennial RIMPAC totaled eight in 2002; seven in 2004; eight in 2006; 10 in 2008; 14 in 2010; and 22 this year. Exercises started Friday and run through Aug. 3 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.
The 25,000 personnel, 40 ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft that will participate in RIMPAC are largely in place. The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is expected to arrive today.
Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, Singapore and the United States are among the nations in this year's RIMPAC.
Military personnel from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom also will be taking part.
Russia, long the United States' Cold War adversary, is participating this year for the first time. So are India, Mexico, the Philippines, New Zealand, Norway and Tonga, said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Charlie Brown, a RIMPAC spokesman.
A small Chinese contingent did observe RIMPAC in 1998, the Navy said. But certain direct military-to-military contact with China is prohibited under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000.
In 2006, a waiver of the restrictions allowed a Chinese team to observe a portion of the Valiant Shield exercises off Guam.
Late last week, ships were stacking up two deep in Pearl Harbor as the international fleet continued to grow.
Officials said the in-port phasewith shipboard parties, planning meetings and diplomatic get-togetherswill take place until about July 10 and 11, when many of the ships will head out to sea.
The U.S. Navy so far has provided few details about this year's RIMPAC exercises, with a news conference scheduled for today, but the Royal New Zealand Navy said the training will include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, up to and including "high-end conventional warfare."
The "operational phase" of RIMPAC usually includes live-fire gunnery and missile exercises, maritime interdiction and vessel boarding, surface and undersea warfare practice, maneuvers, air defense exercises and explosive ordnance disposal and mine clearance operations.
The New Zealand navy said on its website that its frigate Te Kaha would be working with Chilean, Canadian and Mexican ships and the U.S. Navy's amphibious assault ship USS Essex in one exercise.
"We see it as a multinational exercise," said the Te Kaha's skipper, Cmdr. Jon Beadsmoore. "The guy I work for is Chilean. The guy he works for is Canadian. It's similar to what we do in the Middle East. It will be a bunch of people we don't normally work with."
The New Zealanders said the culminating "tactical phase" will have the RIMPAC combined forces respond to "regional tensions" in support of United Nations resolutions by combating "an aggressive regional power and insurgent movement."
The commander of the combined task force is U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Gerald Beaman, and the vice commander is Rear Adm. Fumiyuki Kitagawa of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
A RIMPAC official said China was not invited.
U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert was asked Wednesday during a news briefing at the Pentagon when the Chinese might be involved in RIMPAC.
"You know, you can be sure that would be an endeavor, and I hope sometime in the future we can," Greenert said, adding, "The more the better in an exercise such as RIMPAC."