RIMPAC naval exercises start up

China is a first-time participant of the naval exercises, including its hospital ship, the Ark Peace.

Thousands of military personnel from 22 countries have begun a month of RIMPAC naval exercises and, for the first time, China is involved in the effort.

A hospital ship, the Ark Peace, was deployed from China to the Philippines following the devastating typhoon there. It is a floating hospital complete with operating rooms, a dentist office and an opthalmology center. The ship even has lifeboats that can secure patients in the event of a problem on board.

While the visit to the hospital ship was very cordial and welcoming, another Chinese ship, not so much. Photo opportunities were limited and no one on board was available to speak with the media.

The naval ship in question is called an escort vessel. It is often used to bring merchant ships into Chinese harbors to prevent piracy.

Japan is also well represented during RIMPAC.

Lt. Commander Naohiro Watanabe said “this RIMPAC has very many participants so we can (talk to each other) so, yeah, it’s very good.”

Major Steve Neta of the Royal Canadian Air Force echoed that sentiment.

“That’s exactly it,” he said. “It’s about cooperation, communication, building relationships and partnerships in an area of the world that all of these nations have a vested interest.”

Like the aforementioned typhoon that hit the Philippines, Major Neta said the next disaster can strike at any time and call on all the resources of the RIMPAC partners.

“And we do humanitarian assistance and disaster response as part in the exercise, so you have a lot of these nations getting a chance to practice in a controlled environment. It just makes things easier when you have to do it in real life.”

When Lt. Commander Watanabe was asked if he was happy to be in Hawaii, he said “yes, of course.”

“Hawaii, daijobu?”

“Yes, daijobu. It’s a very beautiful sight.”

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