Another Rim of the Pacific exercise, another Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 815 surveilling the proceedings.
Like in the last two iterations of the multilateral naval exercises, the PLAN has sent one of its auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessels to conduct surveillance of this year’s exercise, taking place off the coast of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. As first reported by USNI News, the Chinese Type 815 Dongdiao-class vessel has been conducting surveillance activities since earlier this week.
Notably, the PLAN is not a formal participant in RIMPAC 2018. The Trump administration, seeking to punish China for its militarization of features in the South China Sea, chose to disinvite the PLAN from this year’s iteration of the exercise.
China participated in RIMPAC for the first time in 2014 and returned in 2016. The United States had first extended an invitation to China to participate in 2013.
“We expect the ship will remain outside the territorial seas of the U.S. and not operate in a manner that disrupts ongoing RIMPAC exercise,” U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown noted, according to USNI News.
“We’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information. The ship’s presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise.”
The United States does not oppose China conducting surveillance activities within another state’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. In 2015, the U.S. Navy did not oppose an innocent passage transit by Chinese warships near the Aleutian Islands off Alaska, either.
By allowing these kinds of Chinese activities, which are permitted under international law, the United States hopes for reciprocity, which China has not been willing to grant in areas like the South China Sea.
The RIMPAC exercise began in 1971 and takes place biennially today. This year’s exercises, the 26th iteration, began on June 27 and will conclude on August 2.
RIMPAC 2018 includes 25 countries and is led by the United States Navy. This year, 46 surface vessels, five submarines, 200 aircraft, and as many as 25,000 personnel are participating in the exercise.
The new navies participating in RIMPAC for the first time in 2018 are the Israeli Navy, the Vietnamese Navy, and the Sri Lankan Navy.