RIMPAC 2022: Strategic and Geopolitical Significance of the Exercise on the Indo-Pacific

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Exercise RIMPAC 2022 is taking place from June 29-August 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. This year’s exercise includes 26 nations- all four QAUD nations, Israel, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, and all G7 nations, excluding Italy. Contemporarily the exercise has gained significance concerning the heightening tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

RIMPAC 2022 logo

What is RIMPAC?

The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) is the world’s largest biennial maritime exercise hosted by the United States of America. This month-long exercise includes 38 surface ships, four submarines, and 170 aircraft with around 25,000 military personnel, including ground troops from 9 countries. The exercise is mainly a show of strength to the adversaries of the US.

Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Canberra (L02), an amphibious assault ship, arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in the Exercise RIMPAC 2022

The adversaries of the US often violate international law, made through collective agreements between countries. Through unofficial maritime militia and regular military exercises, the aggressors stake claim over disputed territories by bullying smaller nations to accept their dominance in the South and East China Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. The nations of the Indo-Pacific region are primarily concerned about the aggressors spying on them to get intelligence by violating international laws.

How is the RIMPAC 2022 Strategically Important for Regional Security?

1. India

The Indian Ocean is home to significant sea routes which connect the eastern and western world by passing through west Asia. India holds a strategic advantage in the Indian ocean. As an emerging economy and the world’s largest democracy, India is critical to the region as well as to the interests of the US in the region.

The QUAD partnership between the democracies of the Indo-pacific region, the US, India, Japan, and Australia will mainly focus on trade and maritime security and controlling illegal fishing. The official statement by the United States has stated that the 2022 exercise will also include space and cyber, where there is increased demand to protect the nation’s cyberspace.

QUAD member nations

The decision by various national governments to exclude major Chinese telecom manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE from 5G services induction in their respective countries shows the seriousness of protecting cyberspace. Concerning space, the efficient technologies of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Indian regional navigational system named NAVIC, which is spread across most of the Indian Ocean region, will be an added benefit to monitoring and safeguarding the maritime security of the Indian Ocean region.

2. The Korean Peninsula

The rising tensions in the Korean peninsula due to the increased number of missile tests conducted by North Korea and their constant threat of nuclear tests have raised concerns worldwide. In 2022 alone, North Korea conducted 31 missile tests, including the suspected case of a successful test of an inter-continental ballistic missile. The rise in tensions around the Korean peninsula has forced the United States to invite the South Korean military official as commander of the combined task force, an amphibious task force of the RIMPAC Exercise.

Test firing of Hwasong-17, North Korea’s biggest intercontinental ballistic missile, March 2022
Image courtesy-Reuters

3. East China Sea

Chinese activities in the East China Sea underline the nation’s ambition for re-unifying its motherland. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force repeatedly violates democratically ruled Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. Chinese officials have also warned their adversaries not to interfere in the internal affairs of China, citing Taiwan as an inalienable part of China. It further warned not to “play with fire” by supporting the freedom of Taiwan from mainland China. The warnings were irrespective of the US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin’s statement in the Shangri-la dialogue that the United States of America opposed any unilateral changes in the status quo by either side.

In the same venue, Japan’s prime minister stated, “I myself have a strong sense of urgency that Ukraine today may be east Asia tomorrow”. This sense of urgency by the head of a G7 group member and the second largest economy in Asia indicates an intense fear in western nations about the attack on Taiwan by China. Furthermore, another dispute exists between Japan and China over the islands of Senkaku administered by Japan in the South China Sea.

4. South China Sea

China has repeatedly been claiming its historic rights over the South China Sea, which it refers to as the nine-dash line, by violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which offers rights to nations like the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. In recent years, China has also repeatedly built artificial islands over the south China Sea, and several reports claim China is building those islands to use them as military bases in the future.

A map of the South China Sea showing the disputed islands
Image courtesy-BBC

The participation of these countries in the RIMPAC exercise is vital as these smaller nations are willing to join the United States to put pressure on China to stop its illegal claims over the territories of other nations. The control of influence over the South China Sea will be a strategic advantage as most Chinese exports and oil imports happen here, which is also home to the world’s largest port (The port of Shanghai).

5. Northern Territories of Japan

Referred by Russia as the Kuril Islands and as the Northern Territories by Japan is a bone of contention between Japan and Russia. The conflict has prevented both countries from signing a peace treaty during World War II as both claim these territories as their own. The island is strategically important to Russia because it separates the Sea of Okhotsk from the Pacific Islands.

A picturesque image of one of the Kuril Islands

Recently, Russia has withdrawn from the agreement which had previously allowed Japanese fishermen to fish near the Kuril island. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated, “In the current situation, we are forced to suspend the implementation of the 1998 Agreement until the Japanese side fulfils all its financial obligations “. This move can be seen as tit for tat move by Russia in the wake of sanctions imposed by Japan. Reports also emerged about Russia sending its naval warships into the disputed region, which Japan cites as a provocation.

To know more about the Kuril Islands conflict, read here!

6. China’s Security Pacts with Pacific Islands

In April, China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, which caused shock waves around the region. Moreover, the island is close to Australia, and there are reports of China engaging in talks with Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu for similar agreements. If these security pacts are finalized, China would essentially cover most of the northern territory of Australia. This makes the maritime exercise vital for retaining the power of the US in the Indo-Pacific.

An aerial view of the Soloman Islands

On a positive note for the host RIMPAC exercise was participated by the smaller pacific nation Tonga, where the United States of America is trying to exert its power to avoid the increasing influence of China in the region.

Conclusion

The increased military drills by Russia, China, and the united states, along with its partners at the time of war in Europe (Ukraine Crisis), indicates that the world has entered a stage of unpredictability. Russia is drastically cutting its energy supplies to Europe as a retaliatory measure to sanctions. Furthermore, China uses its supply chain leverage and debt trap diplomacy to assert dominance over developing and developed nations.

Thus, the RIMPAC 2022 Exercise will be significant because the pandemic and the war in Europe have put the world on the verge of a new cold war where oil and energy resources would play a vital role as both are essential for the economic recovery of the post-pandemic world.

About the Author

Anand Reddy N

Anand likes to face challenges to find answers to unanswered questions and always tries to upgrade his wisdom through others’ experiences. He is speculative and likes to speak about foreign policy and international relations. He is an individual who likes to take calculated risks in order to explore and expand his knowledge.

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