Taipei, May 30 (CNA) This year marks a golden opportunity for Taiwan to participate in the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, a multinational naval exercise scheduled for this summer, especially after Washington disinvited China last week, the nation’s defense chief said Wednesday.
Answering questions during a legislative hearing, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) told lawmakers that Taiwan has always sought to participate in RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime drill.
This year Taiwan’s military has already officially asked the U.S. to be invited to the biannual drill.
“We have always wanted to take part and our ongoing efforts have nothing to do with the U.S. decision to disinvite China this year,” Yen said.
With the absence of Chinese troops, Yen believes this year Taiwan has a better chance of being invited to take part, but ultimately it is the U.S. decision to make, he added.
According to Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應), the U.S. has wanted to invite Taiwan to RIMPAC for several years but has been unable to do so due to Chinese objections and Beijing’s threat to quit the exercise if Taiwan is invited.
Washington announced on May 23 that it has disinvited Beijing from participating in this year’s RIMPAC, citing China’s rapid military buildup on disputed islands in the South China Sea as the cause.
China’s People’s Liberation Army previously participated in the 2014 and 2016 version of the exercise and had received an invitation to take part in the upcoming exercise.
RIMPAC began in 1971 and was held annually until 1974, when it became a biennial exercise due to its scale. The founding nations are the U.S., Australia and Canada.
Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, over 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in RIMPAC 2016, more countries and personnel than in any previous year, according to information available on the RIMPAC official website.
The exact dates for this year’s exercise have yet to be announced.
(By Liu Lee-jung and Joseph Yeh)