Russian fleet will sail in Pacific war games
For the first time, Russia will join the armada of foreign and U.S. warships participating this summer in the largest naval war games in the world.
Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told the members of the Chamber Commerce of Hawaii yesterday that the Russian navy will join the estimated three dozen warships from 11 nations in the Rim of the Pacific exercise held every two years in waters off Oahu and Kauai.
The other foreign navies participating this year have not been announced. In 2006 the participants included Australia, Japan, Chile, Canada, Peru, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, who hopes to visit Russia late this spring, said Russia has begun to rebuild its navy with profits from its oil reserves, the world's second biggest behind Saudi Arabia, and its large natural gas reserves.
"The coffers are flush with petrol cash," the four-star admiral added. "The Russian people are proud. They want to reassert their authority. ... We're watching closely. ... We're interested but not worried."
The chamber annually invites leaders of military services stationed in the islands to discuss their plans for the coming year.
Army Lt. Gen. John Brown, who commands soldiers based in Alaska, Hawaii, the Pacific and Japan, said two key environmental studies -- involving the future use of Makua Military Reservation and the basing of a Stryker Combat Brigade at Schofield Barracks -- have been completed and are now being reviewed by Pentagon leaders.
He also said that the Army has relocated the headquarters of I Corps from Fort Lewis in Washington state to Camp Zama near Tokyo, and by the end of the year also will have moved the headquarters of the 8th Army from South Korea to Fort Shafter.
Keating, Willard and other military leaders discussed troubled U.S. relations with China, which denied at the last minute a port visit by the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk last Thanksgiving. Keating called it "an unfortunate incident."
"We want to minimize this gap that exists between U.S. policies and strategies and China's policies and strategies," said Keating, who will make his second trip to China next week. "The smaller that gap, the less chances for confusion, the less chances for crisis and the less chances for conflict."
Because China possesses three times more submarines than the Pacific Fleet, Willard emphasized the need for continued training exercises using midfrequency sonar, which is opposed by environmentalists because of its possible effect on whales and other marine mammals.
Willard noted that China's submarine fleet is comprised mainly of quiet diesel boats that are hard to detect when they operate in shallow coastal waters.
"Midfrequency sonar training," Willard added, "is imperative for the U.S. Navy. It is a highly perishable and technical field. It is in great demand by our operators. There is nothing right now that can replace it."
In the 2006 naval war games, U.S. and allied warships had to operate under environmental restrictions imposed by a federal court.