Invite Taiwan to RIMPAC Massive Naval Exercises, Under U.S. Defense Law


By Brad Lendon, CNN

Taiwan is expected to be invited to the world’s largest naval exercise next year, according to the U.S. defense spending plan for 2022 signed by President Joe Biden this week.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2022 says the invitation would complement the United States’ efforts to support the autonomous democratic island in the face of “increasingly coercive and aggressive behavior” from China.

The NDAA authorizes appropriations for national security programs in the US Departments of Defense, Energy, and State. Article 1246 of the law concerns Taiwan, which separated from mainland China more than 70 years ago but which Beijing considers to be part of its territory and which leader Xi Jinping has pledged to place under. control of China.

Washington has been attached to the autonomy of the island since the adoption of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which provides that the United States provide Taipei with the means to defend itself against aggression from Beijing.

Citing this 1979 law, NDAA 2022 states that “the United States should continue to support the development of capable, ready and modern defense forces necessary for Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capability”, including “where appropriate. , by inviting Taiwan to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2022.

The sprawling exercise is slated to take place next summer with the participation of more than 48 military units from 20 countries and 25,000 people, according to a December statement from the US Navy’s 3rd Fleet in San Diego, which oversees the RIMPAC EXERCISE.

The U.S. Navy has not disclosed any specific guests for RIMPAC 2022, but a potential invitation to Taiwan would be the first ever extended to the island. Any potential invitation could take a variety of forms, ranging from ships or planes to a handful of observers.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii responded to a request for comment on a possible invitation to Taiwan on Tuesday.

Traditional participants in RIMPAC include a range of U.S. allies and partners, including key Pacific powers like Japan and Australia, both of whom are seeing increasing tensions with China and showing support for Taiwan.

“Commitment to RIMPAC is as much a political statement as it is a professional opportunity. The invitation, if it takes place, marks Taiwan as a friend and partner of the United States, “said Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the Joint Intelligence Center of the United States Pacific Command, who called the NDAA language” strong politico-strategic statement. which has its roots in China’s growing aggression against Taiwan ”and other nations in the Indo-Pacific region.

Any Taiwanese involvement in RIMPAC “would send a strong political signal to Beijing that its behavior has created this and has increased the potential cost if it chooses the route of military aggression,” Schuster said.

The United States has used previous RIMPAC exercises in an attempt to ease tensions with China, inviting units from the People’s Liberation Army to participate in 2014 and 2016, when the PLA navy dispatched five ships and more than 1,200 soldiers at the games.

But the PLA was overlooked at RIMPAC 2018 as tensions between Washington and Beijing increased over the building of Chinese islands and military expansion in the South China Sea.

Asked about the China sections in the NDAA on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing was opposed to using what it called “national law” to attempt to “engage in political manipulation” regarding China.

“We urge the United States to abandon zero-sum thinking and the obsolete ideological biases of the Cold War,” Zhao said.

Schuster said the inclusion of Taiwan in RIMPAC would help the US Navy prepare for any eventuality around the island.

“This is a (potential) opportunity to train alongside Taiwanese naval units and personnel, to gain connections and knowledge that could prove very important if China decides to attack Taiwan,” he said. he declared.

But he warned that any presence of Taiwanese military units at RIMPAC could cause divisions among other participants.

“Since it sends a strong political signal to China, Beijing will pressure many traditional Asian participants, such as South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, to decline the invitation or refuse to participate in exercises with Taiwanese units. Something to think about since China reacts strongly to political signals, ”he said.

RIMPAC 2022 will be the 28th version of the event. The United States, Australia and Canada founded the exercises in 1971 as an annual event, but in 1974 they were moved to a biennial base as more nations were invited to participate, according to the United States Navy. .

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