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May 29, 2017

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Naval drill exclusion not related to China: US

WASHINGTON -- The commander of this year's Rim of the Pacific joint naval exercises commented briefly on Taiwan's non-involvement in the world's largest maritime war drills Tuesday, saying the U.S. will instead focus on supporting Taiwan on "another venue."

"I think maintaining and deepening our unofficial relations with Taiwan is (an) important part of how the United States engages in Asia, certainly a region of greater importance to our country," Vice-Admiral Kenneth Floyd, the commander of this year's RIMPAC exercise, said during a media conference call.

Given that Taiwan has not previously observed or participated in RIMPAC, the commander of the U.S. Third Fleet said that Washington will continue "to focus on really another venue for supporting Taiwan's development of defense capability" — and the decision not to include Taiwan "was made independently really of the decision to extend the invitation to the People's Republic of China."

RIMPAC 2014 is the first time that China has taken an active role in the biennial exercises after joining as an "observer" nation in 2012.

Floyd said China's participation is about "building relationships" that span oceans and years by allowing young participants from nearly two-dozen countries to get to know one another.

He said he is always excited to see new countries participate in RIMPAC, adding that the atmosphere in and around the Hawaiian Islands where the exercises are taking place has been "great" so far.

China's participation this year focuses on medical exchanges, with more than 40 Chinese doctors taking part in various events of the drill.

RIMPAC 2014, the 24th iteration since the exercises began in 1971, began June 26 and is set to run through Aug. 1. It has brought together 22 nations, 49 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.

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