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Taiwan likely to participate in 2022 RIMPAC as observer

Analyst believes US will seek to avoid irking China by including Taiwan in live-fire drills

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Ship-based version of Harpoon missile fired during RIMPAC 2016 maneuvers.

Ship-based version of Harpoon missile fired during RIMPAC 2016 maneuvers. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan is likely to take part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise this year as an observer rather than a participant, said a Taiwanese defense analyst.

The world’s largest maritime warfare exercise, RIMPAC is slated to be held again this summer with the participation of 20 nations and 25,000 military personnel, according to CNN. How Taiwan will be involved is being closely watched after U.S. President Joe Biden's signing last week of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2022.

One section of the legislation called for Taiwan’s participation in the drills, which are hosted by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

There are three forms a potential invite could take, as an observer, a member of the war games, or a participant in a live-fire drill, albeit on a smaller scale, reckoned Liu Ying-chieh (劉穎傑), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), a think tank that provides analysis and strategic assessments on Taiwan’s security.

The purpose of the war games is to help decision-makers identify problems and blind spots in a high-stress environment rather than find ways to win a war, he said. Such an opportunity will allow Taiwan to get a clearer picture of the roles it and its allies should play in various scenarios.

If Taiwan were to be invited to live-fire drills, for example by joining other maritime patrol or marine units in simulated operations, it would to a great extent boost the country’s combat capabilities in the event of a war involving multiple allies, Liu suggests.

However, the analyst believes the most likely choice by Washington, bound by its "one-China" policy, is to invite Taiwan as an observer so as not to irk Beijing. While that approach would limit Taiwan’s ability to train with and learn from other nations, it would still give the country’s military personnel access to the exercise program, which serves as a reference for future drills, he said.