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Focus on China at Pacific Rim naval drills
July 2, 2014, 5:15 pm

China is participating in the drills off Hawaii with 1,100 soldiers, 40 doctors and several vessels such as the  missile frigate Yueyang [Xinhua]

China is participating in the drills off Hawaii with 1,100 soldiers, 40 doctors and several vessels such as the missile frigate Yueyang [Xinhua]


The world’s largest multinational naval exercises in the Pacific Rim (RIMPAC), which began last week, are in full swing with more than 40 ships and submarines, over 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from 22 nations participating in the biannual drills.

But it is first-time participant China that has garnered the most attention.

Vice-Admiral Kenneth Floyd, commander of the US Third Fleet and co-chair of the 2014 RIMPAC Combined Task Force, told reporters Wednesday that China’s participation this year is “absolutely significant” because it “makes for better cooperation in the future at sea”.

“I like to say that it’s all about building relationships, and the relationships span oceans and span years, so all of the youngsters that are here today from the People’s Republic of China, Brunei, as well as the other 20 nations, they’re going to go away and they’re going to remember RIMPAC and that they got to know each other,” said Floyd.

“And in the future when we meet each other on the high seas, we might recognize bases, but we’ll certainly remember how we worked together, and I think that will serve us well in the future.”

China is participating in the drills off Hawaii with 1,100 soldiers and officers operating a missile destroyer, a missile frigate, a supply ship, a hospital ship – with up to 40 doctors and medical staff – and tother vessels.

The Chinese medical staff will be particularly important in the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises, which Floyd says are “the most likely areas they’ll drop in together and operate in the future in the real world”.

Asia pivot?

At a press conference held on a docked naval vessel in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Tuesday, US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Harry Harris told reporters that RIMPAC drills are designed to strengthen rebalancing efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, a reference to Washington’s Asia Pivot.

The “Pivot to Asia”, one of the Obama administration’s central foreign policy initiatives was announced during the current president’s first term in office.

Obama’s “near term” goals include lasting progress on enhancing security and 60 per cent of the US fleet will be based in the Pacific by 2020.

“As the world’s economic center of gravity shifts rapidly to the Indo-Asia Pacific region, we also note the increasing risks in the region — some man-made and some natural — but all capable of disrupting stability and impacting our collective prosperity,” Harris said.

“We can all appreciate that conflict and crisis are bad for business.”

When Harris began fielding questions from reporters, most focused on China’s participation in the drills.

The current RIMPAC exercises began on June 26 and will end on August 1 in Hawaii. Brunei is also participating for the first time this year.

Source: Agencies

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