A Chinese radio and electronic surveillance vessel was seen sailing close to the site of the tri-nation Malabar 2018 naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India near the US controlled territory of Guam last week.
The US Navy reported on June 18 that during the trilateral exercises which officially ended June 16, a fourth nation’s reconnaissance ship came within close proximity to the U.S.-Japan-India fleet. The ship was reportedly the Chinese “No. 855 Tianshuxing” a vessel designed for radio and electronic surveillance.
The vessel was photographed very close to the USS Antietam by a U.S. Navy photographer. The unexpected Chinese observer was not invited to the exercise, however under the principle of “freedom of navigation” there was nothing to legally prevent the reconnaissance ship from passing through the international waters, Taiwanese media reported quoting US Navy sources.
The Malabar exercises originally began in 1992 and were organized by India and the U.S. with a focus of sea rescue and anti-terrorism operations. However over the past decade the scope of exercises has been expanded, with Japan becoming a regular participant since 2015.
Australia and Singapore have also participated in past years’ exercises, which are held at different locations each year in either the Indian Ocean or the Western Pacific, according to the report.
In total the joint three-nation Malabar exercises this year included over 20 vessels, and more than 100 aircraft. Reports say that India and Japan both dispatched anti-submarine patrol aircraft to participate in drills targeting potential Chinese PLAN submarines, with both US and Japanese submarines taking the role of the enemy combatant in the exercises.
Chinese surveillance vessels have been spotted close to the site of a US-Australia exercise earlier this year.