Taiwan military hopes to be invited to 2020 RIMPAC as observer

07/28/2020 04:54 PM
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The 2018 RIMPAC exercises. Photo: facebook.com/RimofthePacific
The 2018 RIMPAC exercises. Photo: facebook.com/RimofthePacific

Taipei, July 28 (CNA) Taiwan is still hoping to receive an invitation to participate as an observer in the world's largest international maritime drill to be staged next month, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman said Tuesday.

The list of the 25 countries that will take part in the biennial U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise scheduled for Aug. 17 to 31 was announced in May and Taiwan was not on the list, but the issue of Taiwan's participation was raised again Tuesday at an MND briefing.

MND spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) said that while Taiwan has not been officially invited to take part, the military is still fighting for the chance to be invited as an observer "given cordial Taiwan-U.S. relations."

If it were to be invited, the military would prioritize observing first hand the joint operations among participating forces and humanitarian assistance programs in the large-scale drill, Shih said.

Taiwan's military previously saw this year as a window of opportunity for participating in the RIMPAC exercises given the absence of China since 2018.

It also gained optimism from the U.S. Senate's passage of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on July 23.

The 2021 NDAA highlights U.S. support for the development of Taiwan's military and specifically suggests that Washington should invite Taiwan to the RIMPAC exercises, if appropriate.

The exercises began in 1971 and were held annually until 1974, when it became a biennial exercise due to its scale. The founding nations are the U.S., Australia and Canada.

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) participated in the 2014 and 2016 versions of the exercise, but the U.S. stopped inviting the PLA in 2018.

The U.S. Navy's Third Fleet in San Diego, which plans the RIMPAC drills, announced in May that all 25 nations that were invited to participate in the 2018 RIMPAC event were asked to return to Hawaii in mid-August for this year's exercises.

The 25 nations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

A total of 46 surface ships, five submarines, 17 land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in the 2018 RIMPAC exercises.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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