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US to China: We’re hosting world’s largest naval exercise, in Pacific

Ships and submarines participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith Devinney)
June 02, 2022

The U.S. is hosting the world’s largest naval war games in the Pacific ocean this summer in a loud message to China. All four members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (also known as “The Quad”) and at least five countries from the South China Sea will be in attendance.

In a Tuesday press release, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said the 2022 Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC) will see 38 surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, more than 170 aircraft and approximately 25,000 personnel from 26 different countries. This year’s iteration of the biennial RIMPAC, which is the largest international maritime exercise, will run from June 29 through Aug. 4.

The participating countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Participants Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore all border the South China Sea, where China has broad maritime claims that conflict with other countries in the region.

Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. are all members of the Quad, a strategic security dialogue focused on maintaining regional stability in the Pacific.

Australia and the U.S. are also part of trilateral security and military technology-sharing pact with the U.K. called AUKUS.

China has expressed opposition to both the Quad and AUKUS. Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. announced AUKUS in September of last year, along with plans for the U.S. and U.K. to share their highly secretive nuclear submarine propulsion technology with Australia. China was quick to condemn the new trilateral security arrangement, saying it “has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation efforts” and reinforces a “Cold War” mentality against China.

The exercise will take place in and around the Hawaiian Islands and off the coast of Southern California.

The U.S., which organizes the biennial RIMPAC exercises, allowed China to attend the 2014 iteration of the maritime war game. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) sent four surface ships for RIMPAC 2014. China’s PLAN again participated in RIMPAC 2016, this time sending five surface ships. China was initially invited to again attend RIMPAC 2018, but was later disinvited by the U.S. due to its continued militarization of the South China Sea.

In 2018, USNI News wrote that the U.S. had hoped inviting China to the biennial RIMPAC drills would help ease tensions and get China to stop militarizing the South China Sea, but China’s 2014 and 2016 participation in the maritime exercise had not achieved that desired outcome.

After being disinvited from RIMPAC 2018, China’s Defense Ministry called the U.S. decision “unconstructive” and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “We hope that the U.S. will change such a negative mindset,” Voice of America reported. The PLAN also sent a surveillance ship near Hawaii to monitor the 2018 exercise, USNI News reported at the time.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet will host RIMPAC 2022, and U.S. 3rd Fleet, who will serve as Combined Task Force (CTF) commander for the exercise. Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Christopher Robinson will serve as deputy commander of the CTF, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Rear Adm. Toshiyuki Hirata as the vice commander, and Fleet Marine Force will be led by U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Joseph Clearfield. Royal Australian Navy Commodore Paul O’Grady will also command the maritime component of the exercise and Royal Canadian Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Goulden will command the air component.