(Photo source:mil.cnr.cn)Click here to see more photos>>>Chinese fleet joins others for RIMPAC exercise
The US is hosting a scaled-down version of the RIMPAC military exercises despite opposition from Hawaii for fear of coronavirus spread. But experts said the exercises are but symbolism, rather than a show of military might.
The military exercises kick off on Monday, Hawaii time, where the total number of coronavirus cases has reached 5,000 as of Sunday, Hawaii health officials said.
The exercises hold great risks of infection among crew members, considering the confined space on ships and the virus surge on the islands, experts noted.
“Take the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt as an example. There is no guarantee that the virus won‘t enter the ship, and once that happens, it will be a huge blow to the exercises,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Sunday. More than 1,150 carrier sailors were confirmed to be infected, of whom one died.
Some 5,300 personnel on 20 ships from 10 countries will take part in the exercises, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.
Two Philippine Navy sailors from the newly commissioned BRP Jose Rizal tested positive before sailing for Hawaii, local media reported on July 18. One Japanese sailor was also reported to have been infected with the coronavirus on July 21.
Seeing a great risk of a virus spike, Hawaiians also oppose the war games. A local organization in Honolulu, Cancel Rimpac Coalition, delivered a petition with 13,000 signatures calling off the exercises, chanting “bullets and bombs are useless against viruses.”
But despite virus concerns, the US will still conduct the exercises trying to prove that it always has a dominant say in the Indo-Pacific region and the Pacific Rim, which is a direct message to China amid escalating tensions, Li said.
“The reduced scale of the exercises in terms of the number of participating countries, the duration and sea-only operations is more of a symbol than a display of military might. After all, there is much less muscle to show in these exercises than in previous years,” he said.