China Sends Spy Ship to Monitor US-led Rimpac War Games
By Faith Magbanua, July 20, 2018 00:07 AM
Last week, China sent out one of its spy ships to Hawaii during the US-led Rimpac War Games.
According to US media reports, the ship was sent to monitor the Pacific drills after its navy was excluded from the event amid simmering tensions over the South China Sea. US Pacific Fleet spokesperson Captain Charlie Brown told USNI News on Friday, July 13, 2018 that a Chinese surveillance ship had been operating within 200 nautical miles of the exclusive economic zone off the coast of Hawaii since Wednesday.
"The US Pacific Fleet has been monitoring a Chinese navy surveillance ship operating in the vicinity of Hawaii outside US territorial seas," Brown was quoted as saying.
"We expect the ship will remain outside the territorial seas of the US and not operate in a manner that disrupts the ongoing Rimpac exercise."
The PLA Navy auxiliary general intelligence ship is a Dongdiao-class - the type China has previously sent to monitor the war games in both 2016 and 2014, the report said.
On the other hand, Pentagon initially asked China to take part in this year's Rimpac exercise - the world's biggest international naval drill held biennially - but withdrew the invitation in May, saying Beijing's actions in the South China Sea ran counter to international norms.
What is China's Motives?
Beijing-based navy expert Li Jie said it was standard practice for countries to send surveillance ships to keep an eye on the military exercises of other nations.
"What the Chinese ship is doing is perfectly legal under international law, as long as they keep a distance of at least 12 nautical miles. These ships usually operate somewhere more than 24 nautical miles from the coast," Li said.
Xu Guangyu, a retired major general who now works at the state-run China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the spy ship was sent in response to the US stepping up surveillance of Chinese vessels in recent months.
"While it's operating off Hawaii, the Chinese surveillance ship could acquire some information about the communication frequencies or channels being used during the Rimpac exercise," he added.
China's absence in Rimpac maritime war exercise benefits no one, least of all America
Researcher Terence Yeung, who specializes in strategic studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, also said the ship could also be used to intercept electronic information used in communications.
He said although the organizers would not want the ship around during the war games, there was nothing they could do about it.
"Those taking part certainly won't welcome a third party spying on them during this exercise, no matter whether that third party has been invited to join them or not," Yeung said.
In addition, Brown said the US fleet had taken all necessary precautions to protect critical information.
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