World's Largest Naval Exercise Led by U.S. Intimidates China: State Media

A Chinese newspaper accused the United States of putting on a "show of intimidation" this week as the world's largest naval war games began without China for the third time in a row.

This year's edition of the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise—or RIMPAC—returns to pre-COVID levels with 26 nations in attendance, among them Beijing's neighbors and many of its regional trade partners. U.S. Navy-hosted symposiums in Hawaii and training exercises in the Eastern Pacific were scheduled to run between June 29 and August 4.

The games "serve to expose the extent to which the United States seeks to impose its will on the region," China Daily declared on Monday. "It is intended to signal that Washington's influence and strategic position is not in decline."

"By organizing such large-scale exercises, while the Ukraine crisis is underway, the U.S. is also intent on showing the world that the Ukraine conflict has not disturbed its agenda or consumed too much of its resources, and its strategic focus remains in the 'Indo-Pacific,'" the state-run paper said.

China Newspaper Rails Against U.S.-led RIMPAC Exercise
Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, four submarines, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC—the world’s largest naval war games—from June 29 to August 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. Above, the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Vancouver transits the Pacific Ocean on June 25, 2022, to attend RIMPAC. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Megan Alexander/U.S. Navy

Chinese naval forces participated in their first-ever RIMPAC in 2014 in what was thought to be a seminal moment in China's relations with the U.S. and the West more broadly, despite its assertive moves against U.S. treaty ally the Philippines in the South China Sea.

China's preemptive rejection of the Philippines v. China verdict in 2016 didn't stop the Obama administration from approving the attendance of five Chinese warships and 1,200 People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) personnel that summer.

But a downturn in relations at the start of former President Donald Trump's trade war with Beijing saw China "disinvited" in 2018, a status maintained in the scaled-down RIMPAC 2020, which was held despite the pandemic.

It means for the third time in a row, the rapidly expanding PLAN won't be represented among the 38 warships, four submarines, 170 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel training between the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California over the next month.

America's Asian treaty allies South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, as well as Pacific allies Australia and New Zealand, are among the countries set to take part in exercises ranging from anti-submarine and air defense training to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia—littoral states competing with China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea—are also present.

Grievances about Beijing's third snub in a row appeared to be exacerbated by the attendance of so-called "minilateral" groups involving the U.S., according to this week's China Daily editorial. Chinese officials have likened the Quad (India, Australia, Japan and the U.S.) and AUKUS (Australia, Britain and the U.S.) groups to "exclusive cliques" formed for the sole purpose of curbing China's rise.

China Newspaper Rails Against U.S.-led RIMPAC Exercise
Above, U.S. Navy Zumwalt-class destroyer USS Michael Monsoor, Chilean Navy frigate Almirante Lynch, and Royal Canadian Navy frigates HMCS Winnipeg and HMCS Vancouver head to RIMPAC on June 25, 2022. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Megan Alexander/U.S. Navy

"For a long time, the U.S. and its allies have become used to China being locked within the so-called first island chain," the newspaper said. "But with the rise of its national strengths, China has developed the capacity to defend its core interests and sovereignty and territorial integrity in a broader scope in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond."

"The U.S. should discard its zero-sum Cold War mindset and divide to rule approach, and work with the rest of the Asia-Pacific family to promote common development," China Daily concluded.

In May 2018, after the U.S. rescinded China's invitation to RIMPAC, Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Yi called the move "unconstructive and rash."

"It is not conducive to enhancing mutual understanding and mutual trust between China and the United States. The U.S. side should abandon such negative mentality," he said.