Reflecting the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia and the Pacific, the United States military is now hosting in the Pacific waters around Hawaii, the largest and most expensive international maritime war games in the history of the world.
Called Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, war games, for 36 days during July and August, 22 countries, 42 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are conducting amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, counter piracy, mine-clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, diving and salvage operations and disaster-relief operations in the Pacific.
Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States are participating in this year's RIMPAC exercise.
RIMPAC began in 1971 and is held every two years. According to the US Navy the purpose of RIMPAC is to "provide a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans."
22 Countries in RIMPAC War Games -- But Not China
This year, pointedly excluded from the Pacific war games, is China, the largest country in Asia and the Pacific. China was invited in 2006 to observe part of the Valiant Shield war games off Guam and in 1998, a small Chinese contingent observed the RIMPAC military exercises. However, since 2000, direct military to military contact by the U.S. with China has been prohibited under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000.
The Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the Global Times, wrote, "Watching from afar, China is feeling uncomfortable. But it should be forgotten soon. The exercise is nothing but a big party held in the U.S. which is in a melancholy state of mind due to difficult realities."
However, China was concerned in early July, when the U.S., South Korea and Japan conducted three-day joint exercises in the area of Jeju island, south of the Korean peninsula, where the Korean government is constructing a controversial naval base to homeport Aegis missile destroyers, a part of the US Missile Defense System. According to Hawaii's Star Advertiser, a Chinese navy representative said those exercises were aiming to "threaten North Korea and keep China in check."
Russia included for first time; but Kiwi vessels not allowed into Pearl Harbor
America's cold war rival and major Asia and Pacific player, Russia, is participating in RIMPAC for the first time. Three Russian naval vessels, a destroyer, tanker and salvage tug, initially were allowed to dock inside the huge U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.
However, the U.S. ally, New Zealand, had to dock its two naval vessels outside U.S. naval facilities. For 30 years, New Zealand has had a "no nukes" policy and has refused to allow U.S. naval ships into Kiwi waters as the United States will neither confirm or deny whether its military ships carry nuclear weapons. In a tit-for-tat move, the U.S. refused to allow New Zealand military ships into Pearl Harbor. New Zealand sailors are not upset by the U.S. decision to exclude them as the two Kiwi naval ships are docked at Aloha Towers in the commercial harbor of Honolulu in midst of a busy tourist area.
Green-Washing War Games Extremely Expensive
In an attempt to green wash the largest naval war games in the world, the United States is using 900,000 gallons of 50/50 biofuel and petroleum-based marine diesel or aviation fuel blend and calling the armada the "Great Green Fleet." The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz carried some of the biofuel to refuel aircraft and Destroyers Chafeee and Chung-Hoon, Cruiser Princeton and Oiler Henry J. Kaiser used bio fuel. E-2C Hawkeye early-warning radar aircraft and helicopters gassed up with biofuel.
In support of the 2012 RIMPAC "green" war games, in December, 2011, the Pentagon purchased 450,000 gallons of biofuel for $12 million, the largest US government purchase of biofuel in history and the most expensive. While the Navy generally pays $4 per gallon for petroleum bases fuel, biofuel ended up costing $26 per gallon but dropped to a mere $15 per gallon when blended with petroleum. The difference in price between petroleum bases fuel and biofuel had some Congressmen challenging the rationale of "greening" of war games during times of economic stress. U.S. Representative Randy Forbes told Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus that "I love green energy, but it is a question of priorities." Most of the biofuel came from restaurant cooking oil, through a contract with Tyson Foods, Solazyme and Dynamic Fuels.
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