Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

  • HOME
  • Speaking Out
  • 【#929】Regrettable U.S. Failure to Invite Taiwan to RIMPAC Exercise
Fumio Ota

【#929】Regrettable U.S. Failure to Invite Taiwan to RIMPAC Exercise

Fumio Ota / 2022.06.16 (Thu)

June 13, 2022

Taiwan is not among participants in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise between June 29 and August 4, as announced by the U.S. Navy recently. The U.S. Defense Authorization Act 2022 has encouraged the Biden administration to invite Taiwan to the biennial naval exercise. In 2020, then Taiwanese Defense Minister Yen De-fa expressed willingness to participate in the exercise. For that reason, I regret Taiwan was not invited this year. The U.S. failure to invite Taiwan is also very regrettable from Japan’s military point of view.

Japan-Taiwan naval exchange possible only within a multilateral framework

It is impossible for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force to hold a bilateral joint exercise with the Taiwanese Navy in the current political environment. If the United States invites the Taiwanese Navy to participate in a multilateral exercise like the RIMPAC, however, the JMSDF and the Taiwanese Navy will have a very good chance during the exercise to establish real-time communications through data links.

The Taiwanese Navy has, as capital ships, four Kid-class destroyers delivered from the U.S. and eight Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates produced by Taiwan under U.S. license, which have Data Link-11 to share tactical pictures in real time. Most of JMSDF destroyers are also Link-11 capable ships. If the U.S. Navy provides common crypto, therefore, the Taiwanese Navy and the JMSDF can share information such as positions of amphibious assault ships of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. This would mark a significant step forward from military point of view.

I remember that when the JMSDF was allowed to participate in the RIMPAC in 1980 for the first time, the JMSDF got an opportunity to take part in a multilateral exercise that had been a taboo for the SDF, making a breakthrough in approving Japan’s exercise of the collective self-defense right that had been interpreted as unconstitutional.

If under a U.S. Republican administration

What U.S. decision would have been on Taiwan’s participation in the RIMPAC if under a Republican administration instead of a Democratic one?

In 2014, the U.S. invited the PLA Navy to take part in the RIMPAC under the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama. Under the Republican Donald Trump administration in May 2018, however, Washington discontinued to invite the PLA Navy to the RIMPAC. Then serving as assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs to take charge of China policy in the Pentagon was Randall Schriver, a hawkish China expert and now chairman of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank.

In 2018, the Trump administration allowed Taiwanese military officers studying at the Military, Naval and Air Force Academies to wear military uniform. Given the above, a Republican administration might have made a decision that differs from the one made by the Democratic Joe Biden administration.

The fact sheet of the 2022 National Defense Strategy published by the Biden administration in late March called for strengthening deterrence against China. The decision not to invite Taiwan to the RIMPAC may not be in line with the strategy.

Fumio Ota is a councilor and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. He is a retired Vice Admiral of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.