The biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise, a naval gathering of 23 regional countries including the U.S., kicked off Thursday in Hawaii, and featured one new member: China. The inclusion of Beijing, on the surface, augurs well for regional stability: China, the region’s second most powerful naval force after the United States, will have the opportunity to coordinate crisis management strategies with other countries.
But attending RIMPAC is unlikely to moderate China’s aggressive stance toward maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas. China has clashed with Vietnam over an oil rig located in Vietnamese-claimed waters, and is currently embroiled in a dispute with the Philippines over a maritime Code of Conduct. This week, the Hunan Map Publishing House released a new map revealing an expansive view of China’s maritime possessions, and the Chinese military began adding sand to the Spratly Islands -- an archipelago claimed by five other Asian governments.
RIMPAC, which will go through Aug. 1, has expanded several times since its inception in 1971 -- mostly recently going from 14 to 23 members since 2010.