China moves spy ship near isles, Asian media say
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Media sources in Asia reported that a Chinese Navy spy ship has recently been placed near Hawaii in response to the continuing U.S. naval presence in the South China Sea and recent drills with Japan and South Korea.
"China retaliates against U.S. Naval presence with ships in Hawaiian waters," blared a recent headline by the Goldsea Asian-American news website.
The Navy previously confirmed that China sent an auxiliary general intelligence spy ship near Hawaii in 2012 when Rim of the Pacific war games were held.
But U.S. Pacific Command said Tuesday that no People's Liberation Army ship was detected either within or just outside of Hawaii's 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone — leaving a bit of a mystery regarding the spy ship reports.
The 2012 incident involved a Chinese ship that sailed just outside the Hawaii zone, an official said.
The Want China Times, based in Taiwan, also reported the spy ship's recent presence off Hawaii, citing the Chinese Communist Party-funded Ta Kung Pao newspaper as saying the surveillance deployment and large-scale Chinese naval drills were carried out in response to exercises by the USS George Washington aircraft carrier battle group with Japan and South Korea.
The reports come as the U.S. military seeks greater engagement with China to try to understand its intentions while also keeping a wary eye on the country's rapid military buildup and aspirations to have a "blue water" navy with greater reach.
"The (People's Republic of China) Navy is becoming increasingly effective in conducting operations in both the Western and Eastern Pacific," said Kerry Gershaneck, senior associate and director of governmental and public relations for the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies in Honolulu.
"China is using its growing maritime power in increasingly sophisticated propaganda operations as well," Gershaneck said. "In the past week, the PRC has capitalized on reporting — whether true or not — the news of its placing its intelligence ship off Hawaii, news of its first-ever ‘battle drills' in the Western Pacific involving maritime and air forces of all three of its fleets, and an unprecedented media blitz highlighting its submarine-based nuclear strike capability."
Any Chinese efforts to place intelligence ships off Hawaii can be seen as a "quid pro quo," or "this for that," Gershaneck said.
"The U.S. has conducted routine surveillance using both ships and aircraft along China's coast for years, and the PRC wants to show that two can play that game," he said. "But it is also likely such a PRC move would be designed to demonstrate that vital U.S. mid-Pacific bases are vulnerable to the Chinese military."
Gershaneck said he expects to see increasing Chinese navy intelligence and other activities in the mid-Pacific, particularly off Hawaii.
At the same time, the U.S. also is stepping up humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exchanges with China in Hawaii.
China is seeking greater stability in its relationship with the United States to avoid, or, if necessary, manage, tension that history suggests is inevitable between established and rising powers, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in June.
For the first time in seven years, three Chinese navy ships pulled into Pearl Harbor in early September for a search-and-rescue drill with U.S. Navy counterparts.
China accepted a U.S. invitation to participate for the first time in RIMPAC exercises in Hawaii next summer.
U.S. Army Pacific, meanwhile, is hosting People's Liberation Army soldiers on Oahu in coming weeks for a disaster management exchange.