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China could sink or swim with joint naval exercises

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the Pacific Ocean with ships assigned to Rim of the Pacific 2010. Photo from Wikipedia.
05 February 2013
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the Pacific Ocean with ships assigned to Rim of the Pacific 2010. Photo from Wikipedia.

China has a chance to prove that it is a responsible global player by joining the world’s largest naval exercises, according to a leading strategic expert from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

With the United States inviting China to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercises off Hawai’i next year, Professor Paul Dibb from the College’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre says that it is in China’s best interests to join in the naval exercises.

“[This] is the world’s  is the world’s largest multilateral naval exercise and it’s going to be a test as to whether China is really interested in cooperation and transparency or whether as many are predicting, it will be resistant,” Professor Dibb told ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program.

“What we’ve seen from China in the last 18 months to two years is harder line, almost confrontational activity in the South China Sea and the East China Sea in regard to Japan.  And we’ve seen a harder line come out in meetings of the ASEAN regional forum in Cambodia last July in which China refused to discuss the South China Sea.

“So I would have thought the weight of the advantage for China is to join this exercises. For many years now, indeed for some decades, we’ve all been involved with China on naval port visits what’s called passing exercises and now these multilateral ones. So we shall see what the reaction is, but as I said it’s going to be a test for China I think in terms of whether they really interested in multilateral cooperation it’s a win-win for China.”

Held every two years the Rim of the Pacific is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise. Currently, the multilateral manoeuvres bring together 22 nations – including the US, Australia, Canada, South Korea, and Japan.

Australia has also floated the idea of major naval exercises with China, inviting the nation to participate in a review in Sydney later this year. Professor Dibb said that the Australian invitation was not surprising.

“For more than 30 years now Australia has developed military and defence relations with China and they are at quite a high level now, involving ministers and chiefs of defence force and over many years, naval visits.

“So I think it is an evolution and we too are doing our bit, along with America and other regional countries, to draw China into being a normal member of the international community.”

More: Listen to Professor Paul Dibb’s interview on ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program.



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