Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – China is expected to take revenge for being kicked-out of this year’s 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise slated for June in the Pacific Ocean by deploying one or two of its advanced spy ships to dog the exercise involving navies allied with the United States.
The U.S. Navy last week expelled the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) from taking part in RIMPAC 2018 to punish China’s blatant and relentless militarization of islands in the South China Sea, especially those owned by the Philippines. As expected, China protested its expulsion.
“As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise,” said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman.
Lt. Col. Logan also said there’s “strong evidence” China has deployed anti-ship missiles (ASMs), surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) last week landed a number of its aging Xi’an H-6 strategic bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the region, triggering concern from Vietnam.
RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise, and is held every two years in Hawaii in June and July. The U.S. has deployed warships to disputed areas of the South China Sea to challenge China’s claims to own practically this entire body of water, which is subject to various claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.
This won’t be the first time China has sent its maritime surveillance ships to spy on RIMPAC. In 2014, a year when China did participate in the naval exercise, Beijing mocked the U.S. by deploying the “Beijixing (851),” a Type 815 Dongdao-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) ship to spy on the exercise. The Dongdao-class is one in a class of three PLAN ships designed to gather electronic and communication data from surrounding vessels and aircraft. China also sent a spy ship to RIMPAC 2010, which it also took part in.
The Type 815 AGI and its derivative, the Type 815G, are the newest Chinese electronic surveillance ships in service as of 2014 with the PLAN. A total of two ships have been confirmed: one Type 815, and the other Type 815G.
The revelation of a Chinese spy ship snooping on RIMPAC led one member of Congress to say the U.S. shouldn’t invite China back for RIMPAC 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 to such a prestigious event like RIMPAC,” said Randy Forbes (R-VA), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.
“Now we learn they chose to disrespect the 20 other international participants by sailing an intelligence gathering ship directly into the middle of the exercise. It is clear China is not ready to be a responsible partner and that their first trip to RIMPAC should probably be their last.”
RIMPAC 2014 included 50 ships, 200 aircraft and more than 25,000 military personnel from 23 nations. China did participate in RIMPAC 2016 but sent no spy ships to dog the exercise. Instead, a Balzam-class AGI from China’s ally, Russia, tracked the progress of RIMPAC 2016.
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