Three Chinese navy ships will stop in Hawaii on the final leg of an around-the-world deployment meant to show China's expanding global military capability, but also highlighting ongoing relations between the United States and People's Liberation Army despite disagreement in the South China Sea.
Chinese media reported the destroyer Jinan, frigate Yiyang and oiler Qiandaohu will stop in Acapulco, Mexico, and then Hawaii following a port call in Cuba. The flotilla also made China's first navy visit to the East Coast earlier this month, visiting Naval Station Mayport in Florida and conducting a passing exercise with U.S. Navy ships.
The "20th Chinese naval escort task force" started the deployment Aug. 23, after completing civil ship escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast. The ships have since visited Sudan, Egypt, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Portugal and other nations.
The People's Liberation Army Navy "is coordinating with the U.S. Navy on an upcoming port visit to Hawaii," Navy Region Hawaii said in an email. "We are looking forward to sharing the spirit of aloha with our Chinese guests, and we hope they enjoy their visit to Hawaii. As for a schedule of events during their visit, we do not discuss details in advance of a port visit by another country's naval vessels."
Ship visits by the Chinese "allow our sailors to personally interact with their PLA navy counterparts, and over time, mutually build trust and understanding firsthand in ways that benefit both our navies," Navy Region Hawaii said. "The U.S. Navy is committed to continued engagement to improve mutual understanding, build trust, enhance transparency, and reduce the risk of misperceptions and miscalculations."
The Chinese navy midshipmen training vessel Zheng He visited Pearl Harbor in October. The U.S.-guided missile destroyer USS Stethem arrived in Shanghai, China, on Monday, in the first such visit since the United States last month sailed the destroyer USS Lassen nearby a man-made island in the South China Sea that China claims as territory but that the United States contends is in international waters.
The United States is worried China may restrict commercial traffic in the South China Sea with a military buildup.
Xinhua, China's official news agency, said in a Nov. 14 commentary, "There is no issue with freedom of navigation in the South China Sea."
"No country in the region attempts to obstruct free navigation in the South China Sea. There is no need to worry about that," the news agency said. "Meanwhile, China's rights and interests in the South China Sea, backed by abundant historical evidence, should be respected. Using freedom of navigation and flight as an excuse to damage China's sovereignty and security is an unwise and dangerous move."