The United States will look to expand its naval exercises in the Asia-Pacific in 2016, a commander told The Diplomat in an interview published October 13 (See: “Interview: The Future of US Military Exercises in the Asia-Pacific”).
The United States already has a series of exercises that it does with Asian nations, including the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise that now includes nine South and Southeast Asian countries along with a naval engagement activity with Vietnam, as well as the smaller Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise with six nations.
But as I have reported previously, U.S. officials have been looking to expand these exercises further (See: “US Eyes Expanded Military Exercises with ASEAN Navies”). In an interview with The Diplomat, Rear Admiral Charlie Williams, the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet’s Task Force 73 that helps plan and execute these exercises, said that Washington was looking to ‘multilateralize’ these exercises by including two other partners and working on common themes.
“So what we’re anticipating in 2016 is a couple of events where we’d probably include two other nations and the United States to be able to have an event with these other multilateral partners working towards themes that are common to us,” he said.
Williams did not specify exactly which two U.S. partners would participate in these new multilateral arrangements. Conversations, The Diplomat understands, are ongoing to ascertain the partners as well as the participants among existing Asian states. But as I have noted several times before, the growing involvement of countries like Japan and Australia – and to a lesser extent India – in U.S. exercises over the past few years makes this a logical step (See for instance: “Philippines to Hold Military Exercises with US, Japan”).
The “themes,” Williams said, would include things like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), maritime security, or coastal patrols, depending on the forces that the United States would bring and the extent of that exercise.
Williams added that the reception the expansion had received had been very positive and that he was looking forward to the “inaugural series of multilateral events” and how that plays out in 2016.
“The reception we’ve received almost across the board I think has been very positive,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a very successful series and I think our partners are anticipating it as well.”