The Chinese sent an electronic surveillance ship to the edge of the region where U.S. and allied forces are conducting the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise -- the largest naval exercise in the world, according to a report by the U.S. Naval Institute.
The U.S. invited the Chinese to send four ships to take part in the massive naval exercise. However, it didn't invite the electronic surveillance ship that is located south of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. This is the area in which the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and more than 50 other ships are taking part in RIMPAC.
The invitation to the Chinese was seen a gesture of goodwill by the U.S. to the Chinese military even as the U.S. continues to execute its pivot to the Pacific. The transfer of additional U.S. forces to the Pacific is seen as strategic move to counter the gaining influence the Chinese have in the region.
Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the Naval War College, told USNI that he suspected that the Chinese ship was the Type 815 Dongdiao-class intelligence collection vessel Beijixing. The ship is home ported in the East Sea Fleet, Erickson told USNI.
These auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) ships are built to gather electronic and communication data from surrounding aircraft and vessels.
“Beijixing is the most experienced vessel from the PLAN’s most advanced class of AGI. Based on Internet photos and Japanese government and other media reports, Beijixing is China’s most well-traveled AGI, having operated frequently near and within Japan’s claimed Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” Erickson told USNI.
The U.S. hosts RIMPAC every two years. It often includes about 23 different nations and more than 20,000 military personnel. About 50 ships and 200 aircraft typically take part in the exercise.
Spying on military exercises is certainly nothing new. Militaries will monitor each other's exercises to get a better sense of the capabilities each possess. You could bet a U-2 was flying nearby any Soviet Union exercises during the Cold War.
Of course, this is seen more as poor manners by the Chinese to be this transparent about it.