“Alliances” Built Through “Exercises” in the Pacific

Similar Posts

This post is also available in: Türkçe Русский

Military exercises are one of the most important tools used by states to intimidate and deter their rivals in international relations. Multinational military maneuvers are considered important tools in armies develop their combat capabilities in land, air and naval with allied states, be prepared for conflict at any time, and test new military technologies. These maneuvers are also valuable in that they show the geopolitical axes in which states are involved or tend to do so.

It is seen that the exercises in the Pacific region have increased in recent years, especially that the European states have started to increase their military presence there by giving weight to naval exercises and patrols carried out for navigational security. The reason for this, the West claims, is that China has expanded its military activities in the region and jeopardized the security of strategic maritime trade routes, which are of great importance for world trade. In this context, China’s construction of artificial islands, ports, radar stations and air bases, especially in the South China Sea surrounding Taiwan, causes Western powers to increase their military presence in the Pacific. In this context, Western states, especially the United States of America (US), are holding a series of military exercises with their allies in the Indo-Pacific in order to limit and deter the “Chinese threat”. China’s response to this with various military actions leads to an increase in polarization in the Pacific and the emergence of some alliances.

After the visit of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to Taiwan, China carried out “Live Fire Drills” around the island. After that, the US and Indonesia organized the “Super Garuda Shield” exercises, which they have been regularly conducting every year since 2009. The highest participation in the multinational exercise was experienced this year with 14 countries. While Japan, Canada, South Korea, Australia and England directly participated in the maneuvers hosted by Indonesia and the US; France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor sent observers. In response, China conducted a joint air force exercise called “Falcon Strike 2022” with Thailand.[1] Thailand, which has improved its relations with the US for the last two years, was one of the countries that benefited from Quadrilateral Dialogue’s (QUAD) Covid-19 vaccine aid. Thailand, which has also improved its military cooperation with the US, participated in military exercises called “Hanuman Guardian” in March 2022. Again, in this process, there was an increase in military exercises between the US, South Korea and Japan For example, in July 2022, the US and South Korea held air exercises. Apache attack helicopters, real weapons and rockets were used for the first time since 2019 in the maneuvers, which is the first joint exercise in which F-35 jets participate. In mid-August of the same year, the US, South Korea and Japan conducted missile defense and ballistic missile search exercises within the scope of the multinational “Pacific Dragon” exercise off Hawaii. Between August 22 and September 1, 2022, the US and South Korea conducted military exercises under the name of “Ulchi Freedom Shield.” Airplanes, warships, tanks and tens of thoUSnds of soldiers from the two countries participated in the summer exercises.

In the same period, a large air warfare exercise called “Pitch Black 22” was started to be organized by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The exercise, which is held every two years, was canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. Approximately 100 aircraft and 2,500 military personnel from NATO countries, Asia and Oceania are participating in the exercise, which is currently being carried out and will last until September 8, 2022. Countries that directly participate in aerial maneuvers hosted by Australia are France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the US.

The remarkable point here is that Japan, Germany and South Korea participated in this air exercise for the first time. In addition, Canada, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) participate at the military personnel level.[2] In this context, Malaysia from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries only sends personnel; Indonesia also sent warplanes. Apart from this, it is also important that Thailand and the UAE are included here. It is seen that the US has expanded the anti-Chinese axis in the Pacific. Newcomers to this axis can be listed as Germany and Thailand.

India, which has traditionally participated in the exercises of the US and its allies recently, has decided to participate in the Vostok 2022 exercises hosted by Russia between 1-7 September 2022; however, QUAD did not take part in the naval part of the exercises to avoid the reaction of its ally Japan. India’s participation in Vostok-2022 exercises has been limited to strategic command and personnel exercises. While India is considered an alliance of the US at sea, it has no particular ally in Asia and often cooperates with Russia.

Before the start of Vostok-22 exercises in the Sea of ​​Japan by Chinese navy ships, the Australian, Canadian, Japanese, South Korean and US navies completed the “Pacific Vanguard 2022” exercise in Guam, hosted by the US, between 21-29 August 2022.[3]

In the same period, it is seen that those who took part in the “Pitch Black 22” air exercise organized by Australia differed from those who participated in the naval exercise of the US, and some of them did not particularly participate or were excluded. For example, Japan, Singapore and Germany participated in Australia’s air exercises for the first time. France is also here. In addition, India also participated in the exercise in question. However, it should be emphasized that countries such as England, France, Germany, New Zealand and India were not involved in the US naval exercise. Each has its own reasons. For example, England was not included here because it competed with the US despite being a Pacific power. France participates in exercises with the US, mostly in the Indian Ocean, the Strait of Malacca or the South China Sea. In the Pacific region, it is in competition with the US.

Germany has not permanent naval presence in the region. Even the German air force went to Australia after 48 hours of flight. That’s why Berlin is trying to establish a permanent presence in the Pacific. New Zealand, on the other hand, sent only personnel to Australia’s air exercise, not aircraft. Again, Wellington did not participate in the naval exercise organized by the US in Guam. This is because New Zealand does not want to anger Beijing by engaging in military activities in distant seas, especially in areas close to China. Similarly, India is careful to participate in exercises only in the seas to its south, namely in the Indian Ocean. It does not want to provoke or provoke China by interfering with its near seas.

Shows of power in the Indo-Pacific are exhibited through military exercises. In other words, exercises are used as a «retaliation tool» in the US-China competition. It is also important that European states and regional actors that are interested in the Indo-Pacific take part in any exercise or send observers to it, in terms of showing the axis in which they are close or involved. Based on the exercises in the Pacific, it is possible to comment on which countries are on which side in the US-China rivalry. Because no state will want to participate in the same exercise with any state that it sees potential for conflict in the short or long term. In other words, it is not possible to allow an enemy country to participate in the same exercises.

As a result, we are moving towards a process in which alliances are built through exercises in the Pacific.

[1] “US And China Hold Separate Military Drills İn South-East Asia”, GAA Times,, (Date of Accession: 02.09.2022).

[2] “Australia, Germany, Korea, the United States, Japan and 12 Other Nations Make a Show of Force Against China”, Atalayar,, (Date of Accession: 02.09.2022).

[3] “USS Tripoli Arrives in Singapore as Chinese Warships Continue to Operate Near Japan”, USNI,, (Date of Accession: 02.09.2022).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer, 2014 yılında Sakarya Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Ortadoğu ve Afrika Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. 2016 yılında “1990 Sonrası İran’ın Irak Politikası” başlıklı teziyle master eğitimini tamamlayan Tamer, 2017 yılında ANKASAM’da Araştırma Asistanı olarak göreve başlamış ve aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Doktora Programı’na kabul edilmiştir. Uzmanlık alanları İran, Mezhepler, Tasavvuf, Mehdilik, Kimlik Siyaseti ve Asya-Pasifik olan ve iyi derecede İngilizce bilen Tamer, Gazi Üniversitesindeki doktora eğitimini “Sosyal İnşacılık Teorisi ve Güvenlikleştirme Yaklaşımı Çerçevesinde İran İslam Cumhuriyeti’nde Kimlik İnşası Süreci ve Mehdilik” adlı tez çalışmasıyla 2022 yılında tamamlamıştır. Şu anda ise ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı olarak görev almaktadır.