At the same time China was invited into Pearl Harbor to participate in Rim of the Pacific exercises for the first time, it also has had a spy ship parked off Hawaii, U.S. Pacific Fleet confirmed Friday.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy auxiliary general intelligence ship has been operating within the United States 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone around Hawaii, but not within the 12-nautical-mile territorial seas, said Capt. Darryn James, spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
This year’s RIMPAC naval exercise, the 24th in the series that began in 1971, runs from June 26 to Aug. 1 in and around Hawaii and San Diego. Twenty-two nations, 49 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating.
The Navy previously confirmed that China sent an AGI spy ship near Hawaii in 2012 during the last RIMPAC exercise.
“The bottom line is that we’re closely monitoring it,” James said Friday. “I think it’s important for us to say that we can assure the public that we’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect critical information. We’re not surprised that it’s there.”
The Chinese surveillance ship “is operating in waters in accordance with international law, and we do the same,” James said. “The U.S. Navy operates in the waters beyond the territorial seas of coastal nations around the world in accordance with international law. So China’s AGI is permitted to do the same.”
Before the at-sea phase of RIMPAC began, “the multi-national exercise leadership informed all the RIMPAC participants about the presence of the ship and to give it due regard for safety and navigation,” James said.
China sent four ships to RIMPAC — the missile destroyer Haikou, missile frigate Yueyang, supply ship Qiandaohu, and hospital ship Peace Ark — which represents the largest ship contingent after the United States.
China is seeking to elevate its status as a maritime power with its participation in RIMPAC.