JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - RIMPAC 2018 has officially kicked off, and representatives from this year's 25 participating nations gathered at Pearl Harbor Thursday to commemorate the event.
But one big name is missing this year. China was originally invited to the exercise, until the nation militarized contested islands.
"China's actions in the South China Sea in regard to providing offensive weapons in a contested area is exactly contradictory to the entire purpose for this exercise. So therefore it was decided at very high levels that they would be disinvited," said Adm. John Aquilino.
Aquilino says the U.S. will cooperate with China where it can and compete and confront with the nation where it must.
"This entire exercise is about nations cooperating for peace, stability, security, and a free and open Indo-Pacific region," he said.
China attended the last two RIMPAC, or Rim of the Pacific, exercises in 2014 and 2016.
This year's event will see the participation of 25 nations, 47 surface ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.
"I'm always impressed and it does my heart good to see the many different uniforms, the different services, the different cultures, all come together for a common purpose," Aquilino said.
As of Thursday's ceremony, RIMPAC sailors are attending safety briefings about marine mammal safety and environmental protection procedures.
As the the event progresses, things like gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises will be performed. The end date for RIMPAC 2018 is August 2.
Officials estimate this year's event will pump about $50 million into the local economy.