The biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise starts tomorrow. The exercise helps to build partnerships in a maritime environment. 26 nations will participate in the exercise, including China, from June 30th to August 4th.

RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise with 45 ships, five submarines, 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel taking part in the event. The exercise will include training in surface warfare, air- and missile-defense, amphibious operations and other maritime skills. The exercise is expected to feature a Harpoon missile shoot from the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship), the US Navy’s newest surface platform.

Of note is China’s participation in the event. Recent territorial claims by China in the South China Sea have US lawmakers upset about them being invited to participate. Others claim a non-invite would only increase the tensions between the US and China. Regardless, China will show up with a fairly large contingent of 5 vessels, including a hospital ship.

For the United States, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis will play a major role at RIMPAC 2016. Stennis recently completed a three-month patrol through the South China Sea, where it was trailed by Chinese warships around the clock. China also denied Stennis port call entry into Hong Kong. This type of port call denial is a fairly regular occurrence since the early 2000’s, almost as biennial as RIMPAC itself.