War Games in the Pacific

WASHINGTON/BERLIN | | usa

WASHINGTON/BERLIN (Own report) - German soldiers will soon participate in maneuvers in the Pacific and will be on hand as observers on patrols in the South China Sea, according to announcements by the US Navy and the French Minister of Defense, Florence Parly. At a top-level conference in Singapore last weekend, Parly declared that Paris will dispatch warships to the South China Sea in the next few days and will also navigate through the territorial waters of Islands China claims as its territory. According to Parly, German military observers will embark on these ships. At the same time, German soldiers are preparing their participation in the US led RIMPAC 2018 maneuver, taking place mainly near Hawaii. RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime exercise. During RIMPAC 2016 German soldiers trained in "liberating" an island, which, according to the scenario, was held by the "Draco" militia. "Draco" is the Latin term for "dragon" - a symbol for China.

 

Rim of the Pacific

This year, RIMPAC ("Rim of the Pacific") will be held for the 26th time. This large-scale maneuver begins June 27 and ends August 2. It was initially organized in 1971 during the US war against Vietnam. Together with its closest allies (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) the US wanted to take up position against the USSR and the People's Republic of China in the Pacific. Like RIMPAC, the BALTOPS exercises held in the Baltic Sea since 1971 are also aimed at Moscow. Its most recent exercise just began this week. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[1]) RIMPAC is biennially organized by the US Pacific Fleet near Hawaii and has been systematically expanded to include allied countries. Soldiers from Germany, Denmark and Italy had participated for the first time in the 2016 combat exercise. This year, military personnel from Brazil, Israel, Sri Lanka and Vietnam will be also included. Joining the USA and Canada, participants have so far included four European NATO countries [2], five Latin American countries - except Brazil, all, Pacific Rim countries [3] - Australia, New Zealand and Tonga, Japan and South Korea, seven South East Asian countries,[4] India, Sri Lanka and Israel. With 25,000 personnel, 47 surface ships, five submarines, and more than 200 aircraft from 26 nations, RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime exercise.

Complex War Operations

According to the announcement of the US Pacific Fleet, RIMPAC 2018 "will exercise a wide range of capabilities."[5] They will include disaster relief, sea control but also complex warfighting. The "realistic" training program includes gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as counter-piracy operations, mine clearance operations, and diving and salvage operations and elements of amphibious warfare. Highlights will include firing of a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) from a US Air Force aircraft and surface to ship missiles by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. For the first time since 2002, the US 3rd Fleet's Command Center will relocate from San Diego to Pearl Harbor to support command and control of forces operating in the Western Pacific, according to the US Pacific Fleet. RIMPAC 2018 contributes to the "increased lethality, resiliency and agility" needed to "deter and defeat aggression by major powers across all domains and levels of conflict." The US military does not specify with which "major powers" conflicts are looming.

"Greater Consequences"

Of course, all this is an indication that the western military forces are systematically preparing for an eventual conflict with China. A few days ago, the People's Republic of China, which in May of last year had been invited to participate in RIMPAC 2018 - as in 2014 and 2016 - had had its invitation withdrawn, at the last minute. As justification, it is argued in Washington that China's current military use of some of the reefs in the South China Sea is incompatible with participation in RIMPAC. Last weekend, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis reiterated that Washington feels prompted to take further measures against Beijing's activities on some of the Paracel and Spratly Islands. "America is in the Indo-Pacific to stay. This is our priority theater," declared Mattis at this year's Shangri-La Dialogue, a top-level Asian foreign and military policy conference.[6] In Washington, the term "Indo-Pacific" has now replaced "Pacific," to include the Indian Ocean, to induce India to join the anti-China alliance. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) Mattis added, last weekend, in Singapore, that the US' vision of a "free and open Indo-Pacific" stands "in strong contradiction" to China's activities in the South China Sea. The withdrawal of the RIMPAC invitation to the Chinese armed forces is "a relatively small consequence" of this "contradiction;" In the future there could be "much larger consequences."

The "Dragon Militia"

In this context, scenarios of sections of the maneuvers, in which the German Navy had participated during the RIMPAC 2016, take on new meaning. As the German Navy reported, German military personnel participating in RIMPAC 2016, exercised not only "the enforcement of provisions preventing the export and import of commodities and natural resources," which, among other things, means boarding missions.[8] German divers also practiced removing see mines to insure the so-called Freedom of Navigation. The Freedom of Navigation is becoming the focus of an intensifying conflict between the United States and China. The USA visualizes for itself an assumed right to unrestricted navigation even through the territorial waters of islands China considers part of its territory. In addition, according to the German Navy's report, one of the scenarios exercised by German soldiers was the landing on an Island to "liberate" it from a "radical militia." The militia was dubbed "Draco" - Latin for the word "Dragon." The dragon is widely known as the symbol for China.

Observer on Patrols

While the Bundeswehr is preparing for RIMPAC 2018, apparently initial activities in the South China Seas are imminent for German military observers. At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last weekend, France's Minister of Defense, Florence Parly announced that the French Navy would - like also the British - intensify its patrols in the South China Sea. As with the US Navy, they are prepared to provoke a conflict with Beijing by navigating through the territorial waters of islands China considers its own. Parly announced that the next patrol will soon debark from Singapore.[9] She declared literally: "German observers have embarked on our ships."[10] She believes that this sort of activity must be expanded in the future.

 

[1] See also Kriegsspiele im Baltikum.

[2] Deutschland, Frankreich, Großbritannien, die Niederlande.

[3] Brasilien, Chile, Kolumbien, Mexiko, Peru.

[4] Brunei, Indonesien, Malaysia, die Philippinen, Singapur, Thailand, Vietnam.

[5] U.S. Navy Announces 26th Rim of the Pacific Exercise. pacom.mil 30.05.2018.

[6] Dennis Schwarz: US-Verteidigungsminister Mattis wirft China Politik der Einschüchterung vor - und droht mit Konsequenzen. handelsblatt.com 02.06.2018.

[7] See also "China herausfordern".

[8] RIMPAC 2016. marine.de 18.08.2016.

[9] Peter Hartcher: Great powers stepping up on China. smh.com.au 04.06.2018.

[10] Madame Florence Parly, ministre des Armées: Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapour, le 3 juin 2018. defense.gouv.fr 04.06.2018.