China will send five ships to join the Pacific Rim military exercises, that began on June 1 and will last until August 1, near the Hawaiian Islands.
According to official reports, 45 ships, five submarines and 200 aircraft from 27 nations, with 25,000 military personnel, will take part in the event, staging fire, anti-piracy, search and rescue, and, notably, Aegis missile-interception drills. Three Aegis-equipped fleets, from the US, Japan and South Korea, will practice intelligence coordination amid growing concerns of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
The Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed in a statement late Thursday that a flotilla of five ships will take part in RIMPAC this year, following up on an announcement in February.
Allowing China to take part in the exercise caused mixed reaction in Washington, with some lawmakers, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), stating that the United States should bar China from participating until the ongoing South China Sea dispute is resolved. However, others argued that it would be beneficial for China to see the naval power of the US and its allies firsthand.
"Direct exposure to US equipment, personnel, and capabilities should give the Chinese a more realistic assessment of what the US and its allies are capable of doing," said Nicole Forrester, formerly with the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies, earlier this February.
This year's exercise includes forces from Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Russia took part in RIMPAC in 2012, but canceled its participation in 2014, due to interrupted military cooperation between Moscow and Washington over ongoing territorial disputes in Ukraine.