China to join US-hosted naval exercise
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - China will join a US-hosted naval exercise in Hawaii in July, where it is expected to hold drills with 21 other countries, including its rivals in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.

US Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Harry Harris  Jr. said it would be the first time for China to join the RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercise.

“We have RIMPAC, the biggest naval exercise in the world and it will happen in July in Hawaii and 23 countries will participate,” Harris told The STAR last Monday.

“For the first time, China and Brunei will participate. China will participate. They have accepted our invitation because we want to work with them,” he added.

RIMPAC 2014 will be held amid rising tensions in the region triggered by China’s efforts to build up its military and assert its territorial claims.

China claims virtually the whole South China Sea and West Philippine Sea through the so-called nine-dash line, which covers more than 100 islets, atolls and reefs.

Its territorial claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

China has been occupying disputed areas and increasing its maritime patrols, raising concerns about the possible impact of its actions on the rule of law and freedom of navigation in the region.

The US has been vocal in criticizing China’s aggressive moves and has been urging other countries with clashing claims in the region to comply with international law and to settle their dispute peacefully.

The US, nevertheless, stressed it is looking forward to strengthening its relationship with China.

Philippine Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic told The STAR they would send two officers to the RIMPAC planning session in California in April.

Fabic said the RIMPAC, which is held biennially, would greatly benefit Filipino sailors.

“We learn from these exercises on a multinational scope and level, especially there are delegates directly involved in the exercises as staff officers and not just observers,” he added.

Fabic said Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan and South Korea sent ships and personnel to RIMPAC 2012. The countries which also sent representatives that year were Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom and the Philippines.

“With regard to the exercises involved for this year, the planning conference will be in April. From there we will know what exercises will be undertaken,” Fabic said.

“This year, our two officers will actually participate in the exercises as staff officers and not just observers,” he added. 

 

CHINA CHINA AND BRUNEI FABIC HARRY HARRIS JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA LIEUTENANT COMMANDER GREGORY FABIC NEW ZEALAND PACIFIC FLEET PHILIPPINE NAVY RIM OF THE PACIFIC
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