China will join RIMPAC training in Hawaii

Admiral Harry Harris Jr.
Admiral Harry Harris Jr.

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - Next month's Rim of the Pacific training in Hawaii will feature 25,000 personnel from 23 nations. The military exercise is projected to pump $52.5 million into the state's economy.

"It's about building bridges and improving relationships," explained Admiral Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Russia joined RIMPAC for the first time in 2012, but dropped out of this latest exercise before the conflict in Crimea.

China will be a new participant despite territorial disputes with other countries involved, including Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines. Harris said he is concerned about China's military growth and lack of transparency.

"We call for peaceful resolution of these disputes, that they not be resolved through resort to military means or aggressive unilateral actions," Harris said.

Harris called Hawaii the gateway to America's rebalance to the Pacific. Nearly 60% of the U.S. Navy will be operating in the region by the end of the decade. Harris considers North Korea to be the biggest threat.

"I think it's a very dangerous situation on the Korean peninsula," he said. "We have an unpredictable leader (Kim Jong Un) that seeks nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them."

Despite smaller Department of Defense budgets, Harris said the Pacific Fleet is in good shape for now, but there could be downsizing in 2016 and beyond if sequestration returns.

"I'm confident that we'll meet our national security imperatives no matter what happens in the rest of this decade. That said, would we be stretched thinner? Yes, absolutely, if we're cut," said Harris.

However, that's not stopping him from exploring cutting edge tools like Google Glass. As he looks to the future, he sees the potential of new technology to revolutionize modern warfare.

RIMPAC runs from June 26 to August 1.

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