Chinese ships steamed June 10 toward waters near Hawaii to participate for the first time in the world’s largest naval exercises hosted by Washington - a rare opportunity to build trust with the U.S. and regional rivals including the Philippines and Japan.
China’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific exercises beginning June 26 will enable Chinese naval officers to rub shoulders with U.S. counterparts as well as those from countries with which it has maritime disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Twenty-three countries will participate in this year’s drills, including Australia, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Britain.
China’s Defense Ministry said four ships - the destroyer Haikou, missile frigate Yueyang, the oiler Yueyang, and hospital ship Peace Ark - departed June 9.
It said the squadron is carrying 1,100 officers and sailors, including a commando unit and diving team, along with two helicopters. China has never before dispatched ships to take part in the exercises known as RIMPAC, although it sent military observers to watch the drills in 1998.