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Ships and a submarine take part in the 2020 Rimpac exercises off the coast of Hawaii. Photo: US Pacific Fleet

US to be joined by other Quad members, South China Sea nations for Rimpac war games

  • World’s biggest naval exercises will take place from June 29 to August 4 in and around the Hawaiian islands and southern California
  • It will involve 26 countries, including India, Japan and Australia as well as Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines

The US military will be joined by units from 25 countries – including the other Quad members and five Southeast Asian nations – for the world’s biggest naval war games at the end of this month.

Thirty-eight surface ships, four submarines and more than 170 aircraft will take part in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (Rimpac) exercises from June 29 to August 4, the US Navy said in a statement on Tuesday.

It will also involve land forces from nine countries, and a total of 25,000 personnel will take part. The drills – first held in 1971 – will take place in and around the Hawaiian islands and southern California.

Hosted by the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, the exercises will involve American allies and partners from around the world. They include India, Japan and Australia – the other members of the US-led Quad security group that China has called an “Asian Nato” aimed at containing its influence in the region.

Five nations bordering the contested South China Sea will also join the Rimpac exercises – Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. The line-up also includes the Pacific island nation of Tonga, part of a region where China has been stepping up engagement.

Those taking part in Rimpac will “exercise a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime forces”, ranging from disaster relief and maritime security operations to complex warfighting, the US Navy statement said.


They will also be involved in “relevant, realistic” training programmes, including amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defence exercises.

“During Rimpac, a network of capable, adaptive partners train and operate together in order to strengthen their collective forces and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army joined the Rimpac drills for the first time in 2014, but China was disinvited in 2018 over what the Pentagon called a rapid military build-up in disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Ni Lexiong, a professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, noted that the war games will be held at a time when the US has been strengthening its alliances and partnerships as part of its rivalry with China.

The US, Britain and Australia announced a new security alliance known as Aukus in September last year, an apparent effort to counter Chinese influence. And last month, during a leaders’ summit in Tokyo, the Quad announced an initiative to use satellite technologies for a tracking system to monitor illegal fishing.
In March, White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell and top National Security Council China official Laura Rosenberger reportedly held a meeting with British officials on Taiwan, a flashpoint between China and the US.

“Meanwhile, China is increasingly seen as siding with Russia over the war in Ukraine,” Ni said. “China is in a difficult position now.”

Canadian troops move towards amphibious assault vehicles at Camp Pendelton, California during the 2018 Rimpac drills. Photo: Reuters

Ni said Washington was seeking to consolidate its networks to “build multiple-level containment” against Beijing, including through bilateral alliances such as with Japan, trilateral alliances like Aukus and the four-way Quad.


“That’s not to say there will be a war very soon, but unlike the US, China is not likely to convene so many countries,” he said.

Military tensions have been rising. Last week, soon after the PLA Navy’s Liaoning aircraft carrier strike group carried out drills in the western Pacific, the US Navy sent its USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Ronald Reagan strike groups to the same area for an exercise.