WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― As they conduct the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise, the U.S., South Korea and 20 other nations are not taking direct aim at either China or North Korea, a top American Navy officer said Tuesday.
“RIMPAC is not focused on any specific geographic area within the Pacific,” Vice Adm. Gerald Beaman, commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, said during a teleconference with Asian reporters. “It’s an opportunity for all of us to come together to really improve international maritime cooperation.”
Guided-missile destroyers USS Pinckney (left) and USS Shoup sail in formation during the Rim of Pacific Exercise 2006 in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy)
He was briefing on the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise which kicked off near Hawaii on June 29. It is scheduled to run through Aug. 3.
He said this year’s drills have drawn the largest number of participating nations.
“The major difference between RIMPAC 2012 and previous is the size alone. RIMPAC 2012 has 22 nations participating. The largest heretofore was 14 nations in 2010,” he said.
The participants are mostly Pacific nations but North Korea and China were not invited. Beaman, who commands the RIMPAC exercise, dismissed the view that the event may be intended to counter China’s growing military might.
“The U.S. seeks to improve our military-to-military relationship with China. Right now, that effort is taking place at the strategic level, and we look forward to when we have the opportunity for more military-to-military engagement at the operational and tactical level. But that is not where the relationship is right now,” he added.
Asked to elaborate on the purpose of the RIMPAC training, he said programs include maritime interdiction operations, amphibious operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and escort operations.