Nikkei reported that RIMPAC 2020, a major training exercise involving 22 warships from the U.S., Japan, Australia, France, and six other countries, began off the coast of Hawaii on Tuesday, saying some 5,300 troops are expected to conduct various drills, including anti-submarine warfare training, through Aug. 31. U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Aquilino said in a released statement: “RIMPAC is a unique opportunity for like-minded nations to expand mutual support, increase interoperability, and demonstrate our collective resolve to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains free and open.” Noting that it was initially thought to be difficult to hold the biennial exercise this year due to the coronavirus pandemic which affected several U.S. aircraft carriers, the daily claimed that Tokyo pressed Washington to hold it as originally scheduled in order to demonstrate that the U.S. and its partners are united in deterring China’s intrusive naval operations in the South and East China Seas. The daily added, however, that the drills have been scaled back and the U.S. decided against inviting the Taiwanese Navy in order to avoid provoking Beijing.
In a related development, all national papers noted that the U.S. military also began joint training with the ROK military yesterday to prepare for the possibility of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula. This annual command post exercise was also reportedly scaled back considerably on account of the COVID-19 outbreak. The papers said North Korea is likely to react strongly.