A formerly obscure naval exercise involving China and the United States is coming under increased scrutiny ahead of President Barack Obama‘s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday.
For the first time, the Obama administration invited China’s People’s Liberation Army to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, an annual maritime exercise that enlists a variety of nations typically allied with the United States. But in wake of concerted Chinese attempts to obtain U.S. military secrets, not everyone is thrilled about the two naval powers floating side-by-side.
“The administration made a mistake by letting China play a role in the Rim of the Pacific exercises,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, tells The Cable. “They will likely utilize these exercises to their advantage: stealing our military secrets and better understanding our military strategy.”
Michael Auslin, a resident scholar of Asian security studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agrees.
“They will get a better understanding of our tactics and procedures as they see how we can coordinate with our allies and friends,” he told The Cable. “I would much rather see them mystified about how well or closely we work with the Japanese or Australians. If they come into RIMPAC and see the improved communications between the fleets, that is valuable from a military perspective.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter first acknowledged that China had accepted the offer in March, though the invite was originally extended by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last year. At the time, Carter said, “We seek to strengthen and grow our military-to-military relationship with China, which matches and follows our growing political and economic relationship.”