China has sent a spy ship to waters off Hawaii just as the country partook for the first time in the world’s largest marine drill that is held in the area, the United States led Rim of the Pacific Exercise, or Rimpac.
The auxiliary general intelligence vessel is not within the U.S. territorial seas, yet within the two hundred nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, Captain Darryn James, chief spokesman for the United States Pacific Fleet, said in a statement. The ship is not connected with the Rimpac that’s now under way, he said.
“U.S. naval forces continually monitor all maritime activity in the Pacific, and we expect this ship will remain outside of U.S. territorial seas and not operate in a manner that disrupts the ongoing Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise,” Captain James said. China dispatched the second largest contingent to this year’s Rimpac, after being requested to partake in the event by the U.S. for the very first time. The spy vessel was constructed to cultivate international cooperation as China’s navy further develops its capacities, which is why the presence of the surveillance vessel has garnered questions among those who participated in the said event.
“This is not the first time we’ve been under surveillance while we’re operating or exercising,” said Per Rostad, commanding officer of the Royal Norwegian Navy’s Fridtjof Nansen. “However, one might say it’s a bit novel when you participate in an exercise with participating units,” further adds Rostad. He has worked together before with the Chinese navy to convey chemical weapons from Syria.
While China participates in this year’s Rimpac, its navy are secluded out of most of the exercises’ core combat constituents. China has deployed four ships, namely – missile destroyer Haikou, frigate Yueyang, supply ship Qiandaohu and the Peace Ark medical ship.
“You don’t really see exercises on this scale in Europe,” stated Rostad. “The amount of fighter aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, the amount of submarines, the amount of different types of targets to fire ordnance.”
International law gives freedom of steering throughout a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The U.S. distinguishes and respects the right of all nations to use this freedom of navigation and overflight further than any coastal nation’s territorial seas according to international law, Captain James said, in allusion to the Chinese spy ship.
China has been long protesting about U.S. scrutiny activities off China’s coast inside the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In the year 2009, China said that a Navy spy ship carried out activity in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the Yellow Sea that breached international and Chinese laws. The USNS Victorious did not ask for China’s permission, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said at the time.
Capt. Darryn James, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet said, “The U.S. Pacific Fleet closely monitors maritime activity in the Pacific, and we have taken all precautions necessary to protect critical information. … Our multinational leadership team informed all RIMPAC participants about the presence of the Chinese Navy surveillance ship prior to the at-sea exercise portion and to give it due regard for safety of navigation.”
He also cautioned, “We expect this ship will remain outside of U.S. territorial seas and not operate in a manner that disrupts the ongoing Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise.”
The allegations of spying are prominent for China, which frequently condemns the United States for doing the same in the South China Sea.
During a speech at a conference in Beijing last June, Adm. Sun Jianguo, the deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army denounced US Naval spying.
“If Chinese naval ships patrolled frequently in the waters off San Diego in the west of the U.S., how would America feel,” Sun inquired.
While China was invited to join the drill, the uninvited spy ship has by now prompted various proposals not to ask China back to the next RIMPAC in the year 2016.
“Given China’s recent disregard for principles like freedom of navigation and the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes, it was already a stretch to reward Beijing with an invite,” said Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower and projection forces in an e-mailed statement. “It is clear their first trip to RIMPAC should be their last.”