China's presence in RIMPAC 'significant': US commander

Updated: 2014-07-02 06:47

By AMY HE in New York (China Daily USA)

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Vice-Admiral Kenneth Floyd, the commander of this year's Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise in the Hawaiian Islands, said that China's first-time participation in the drills is "absolutely significant".

The whole world is watching this year's RIMPAC and China's participation will "make for better cooperation in the future at sea", Floyd said in a media conference call on Tuesday from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

"I like to say that it's all about building relationships, and the relationships span oceans and span years, so all of the youngsters that are here today from the People's Republic of China, Brunei, as well as the other 20 nations, they're going to go away and they're going to remember RIMPAC and that they got to know each other," said Floyd.

"And in the future when we meet each other on the high seas, we might recognize faces, but we'll certainly remember how we worked together, and I think that will serve us well in the future."

Floyd, commander of the US Third Fleet, heads the 2014 RIMPAC Combined Task Force, along with vice-commander Rear Admiral Yasuki Nakahata of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and deputy commander Rear Admiral Simon Cullen of the Royal Australian Navy. The exercises began on June 26 and will end on Aug 1.

China will be participating on medical exchanges, with more than 40 Chinese doctors taking part in various events, Floyd said. Doctors and medical staff from all 22 nations participating in the exercises will be part of the medical exchanges, he added. They will center on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, which are "the most likely areas they'll drop in together and operate in the future in the real world," Floyd said.

At sea, there will be gunnery exercises and work on countering piracy, he said. In more than 2,000 events and exercises of the next month, China will be participating in a good number of them, Floyd said.

The atmosphere in Honolulu has been "great", he said. When asked about how this year's RIMPAC has been different because of China's first-time participation, Floyd said that every RIMPAC is different but that the exercises so far have been going very well.

"There've been a lot of get-togethers. There's usually some kind of reception every night that everyone is participating in — lots of smiles, lots of handshakes. I'm always excited to have new countries participate in RIMPAC," he said. "It's been a lot of fun so far and I'm really looking forward to getting underway and doing some work out at sea."

China is being represented by four ships: the Haikou missile destroyer, Yueyang missile frigate, Qiandaohu supply ship and the Peace Ark hospital ship.

The RIMPAC exercises are the largest international maritime drills and take place biannually in Hawaii. They were established in 1971 and have been hosted by the US Pacific Fleet.

The 2014 drills include participation from Australia, India, New Zealand, and Malaysia, with Brunei and China participating for the first time.

All of China's vessels except the Peace Ark are scheduled for a port visit in San Diego, California, after the RIMPAC exercises, the Global Times reported.

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