Why America Should Disinvite China to RIMPAC 2018

    Grant Newsham

    Security, Asia

    A real bad idea that needs to go away. 

    Now that the Trump administration stood up on its hind legs and declined to recognize China’s ‘market economy’ status, it should do the military equivalent and withdraw Beijing’s invitation to the next Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in 2018.

    RIMPAC is the US Navy’s premier multilateral exercise and is held biannually in Hawaii. Once upon a time, it was for America’s friends in the Asia–Pacific region.

    China was first invited in 2012 and attended in 2014 and 2016 – and is scheduled to attend next year’s exercise.

    These repeated invitations are perplexing, given the People’s Republic of China’s stated objective of displacing the United States in Asia and its demonstrated willingness to bring this about.

    From an intelligence perspective alone, the Chinese at RIMPAC is ill advised.

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    Any competent adversary at RIMPACcan gather useful acoustic signatures and other electronic intelligence. There are human intelligence opportunities, and close observation of ships, hardware, tactics and procedures, all offer intelligence advantages.

    Spokesmen for the US Pacific Command, or PACOM, routinely claim China is shielded from the ‘sensitive’ parts of RIMPAC. Maybe. But this wouldn’t be the first time the US underestimated Chinese capabilities.

    And true to form, expect Beijing to aggressively push for full RIMPAC participation – claiming discrimination and containment.

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