Taiwan seeks to observe in upcoming RIMPAC: MND

US Senate recently passed 2021 NDAA supporting inclusion of Taiwan in military exercise

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USS Ronald Reagan leads ships during RIMPAC.

USS Ronald Reagan leads ships during RIMPAC. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan is seeking the opportunity to observe the U.S.-led Rim of Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), which this year is scheduled for Aug. 17-31 amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Shih Shun-wen (史順文), spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense (MND), said during a press briefing on Tuesday (July 28) that Taiwan is interested in participating in RIMPAC as an observer in order to learn from the cooperative training and humanitarian assistance operations. Acknowledging that so far the military has not yet received an invitation, Shih stressed that cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. will benefit regional stability.

Known as the world's largest international maritime exercise, the biennial RIMPAC will be an at-sea-only event this year in view of the global pandemic, with social events ashore scrapped. It takes place in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, and the number of participating countries has surpassed 20 since 2012.

This is not the first time that the island nation has expressed an interest in participating in RIMPAC, although Taiwan has never been included. China, on the other hand, was invited by the U.S. in 2012 and 2016; however, it was disinvited in 2018 due to tensions between the two countries.

The prospects for Taiwan to take part in RIMPAC are brighter now that the U.S. has openly criticized China for its military aggression in the region. The recently passed Senate version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act has also authorized the U.S. government to conduct “practical training and military exercises with Taiwan, including, as appropriate, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise.”