China has recently let it be known, publicly, its intentions to develop military capabilities that will allow them to take Taiwan—by force if necessary—as soon as 2027. This has put strain on US military operations as Ukraine support has spread personnel and equipment quite thin as it is, so there is now circulating uncertainty as to how the US might be able to assist Taiwan if China does decide to invade.
Fortunately, the US military is currently in the middle of RIMPAC 2022 (Rim of Pacific) exercise, which could provide assistance should it become necessary. At the same time, head of the US Pacific Fleet comments that while this specific exercise is not designed to counter a China threat, these exercises can develop the focus and skills and necessary technologies available to handle the potential conflict.
It is important to note that China was disinvited from RIMPAC in 2018. At the time, officials with the US Navy insisted that this biennial, multinational exercise is not specifically aimed at threatening or counteracting any particular country.
After a July 9 RIMPAC press conference, Admiral Sam Paparo explains that more and more, the US military is “integrating unmanned capabilities with live-fire capabilities—and we’re operating in a more distributed and a more netted manner” that will, hopefully, lead to a more distributed and survivable and lethal force that is harder to target.
Indeed, he explains, “RIMPAC itself is not oriented against any particular nation state actor.” However, he adds, the exercise does demonstrate “the solidarity of all its participants to the international rules-based order and the principles of sovereignty, of freedom of the seas, of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and against what otherwise would be expansionist activities.”
Papar concludes that the priority is to increase capabilities on all fronts to address any and all potential mission sets in the future. He also comments that their Pacific partners and allies are now moving towards distributed lethality-type concepts that are more in line with the modern technology and the modern threats they could bring.