Vietnam invited to world's largest naval exercise for second time

By Nguyen Quy   May 27, 2020 | 11:30 pm PT
Vietnam invited to world's largest naval exercise for second time
Ships join a parade at RIMPAC 2018. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy.
Vietnam will be a guest at the 2020 RIMPAC Exercise, joining more than 20 other countries in the international maritime event.

The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world's largest international maritime warfare exercise held every two years, will come back from August 17 to 31 in Hawaii, according to American military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Hosted by the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the exercise will be at sea only and no social events will be held ashore over Covid-19 pandemic concerns, the paper said.

It said the event welcomes back all 25 countries from the 2018 event: Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

But Brazil has dropped out while the Jerusalem Post said Israel will not participate this year due to Covid-19.

China has not been invited to the exercise. The Asian giant was invited for the 2018 event but the U.S. withdrew the invitation later.

The exercise will include multinational anti-submarine warfare, maritime intercept operations, live-fire training event, and other cooperative training opportunities.

"RIMPAC is an incredibly important joint exercise between us and our allies that is absolutely necessary to our country’s national defense in the region," U.S. Rep Ed Case of Hawaii told Stars and Stripes, expressing disagreement to those calling for canceling the event amid the pandemic.

Vietnam was invited to RIMPAC for the first time in 2018, when it sent eight naval officers. Vietnam’s involvement in the exercise marked a major thaw in ties between former foes as also a significant step forward in Vietnam and the U.S. military relations, experts said.

RIMPAC, which was first held in 1971, is aimed at promoting naval cooperation among countries, thereby fostering stability in the region.

Defense relations between Vietnam and the U.S. have strengthened since 2016, when President Obama decided to lift the ban on the sale of assault weapons to Vietnam. The Trump administration has identified Vietnam as a "cooperative maritime partner."

The USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Da Nang last March, the second U.S. aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam since the Vietnam War. The USS Carl Vinson had visited Da Nang for five days in March 2018.

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