“The South Korea military has very actively involved in the joint military exercises. They are doing their roles in drills for landing, anti-submarine and air defense, missile, anti-pirate maneuvers, diving and rescue, humanitarian aid and disaster relief.”
U.S. Vice Admiral Gerald Beaman, commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, has given high marks to the role of South Korean forces in the Rim of the Pacific naval exercises, or RIMPAC.
About 25,000 troops from 22 countries in the Pacific Rim region participate in the war games, the world’s biggest international joint maritime exercises held in waters off Hawaii. The South Korean Navy dispatched three warships, a submarine, a P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft and helicopter, aircraft and infantry units.
In a 40-minute joint phone interview with 10 correspondents in Washington, including one from The Dong-A Ilbo, Beaman compared the exercises to the Olympic Games, saying, “Gold medalists selected from 22 countries will participate in the exercises to complete substantial and well developed training programs.”
The RIMPAC began in 1971 with three countries and is held every two years.
Q: What are the characteristics of this year’s exercises?
Beaman: They are far different from others in size. The number of participating countries increased by eight from 14 two years ago. Forty-six vessels are participating in the exercises, compared with the previous record of 32. Disaster relief and humanitarian assistance have also been newly included in these exercises.
Q: Russia participated for the first time but China did not.
Beaman: After having been an observer in the past, Russia participated for the first time in sending three vessels. We did not invite China this time. We are not yet at the stage of conducting military exercises (with China) in terms of tactics and operations. We want more military exchanges if there are opportunities.
Q: Non-American officers were included among commanders.
Beaman: The commander of the Royal Australian Navy served as naval commander, while the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force was air force commander. An admiral from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force served as deputy commander of the exercises. These countries have participated in the exercises for a long time. I think that it is natural for our allies to take commander posts.
Q: Will you conduct exercises for an emergency situation involving North Korea, such as a provocation by the North?
Beaman: The RIMPAC do not target any specific area in the Pacific region. They involve the interests of all Asia-Pacific countries ranging from Chile, Mexico and Russia to South Korea, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and Canada.
The exercises began June 27 and will run for 42 days until Aug. 7.