Chinese navy to participate in 2014 RIMPAC

Ships and sailors from the PLA Navy set sail Monday from several ports in China to participate in this year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises, the first time that Chinese forces have ever taken part in the multi-national event.

Liang Yang, a PLA Navy spokesman, said Chinese vessels participating in the exercise will include the missile destroyer Haikou, the missile frigate Yueyang, the supply ship Qiandaohu and the hospital ship Ark Peace as well as two ship-borne helicopters and special teams of troops and divers.

Under an agreement between the navies of China and the US, the Chinese ships will take part in live-fire drills, maritime security actions, maritime warship exercises, military medicine exchanges, humanitarian aid and disaster-related exercises as well as diving drills.

A medical forum involving personnel from China and the US will also take place during the exercises, including visits to each other's ships.

The drill schedule as published by RIMPAC organizers calls for naval forces from China, Singapore and Brunei to join up with a US cruiser in waters off Guam in mid-June, then sail in formation to an area south of Hawaii. US officials point out that legal restrictions mean that the Chinese navy’s role in RIMPAC will be limited to less sensitive exercises like disaster relief operations.

RIMPAC is billed as the world's largest international maritime exercise. Participants in the exercise are not necessarily limited to treaty allies with the US and have included ships from Russia and India in the past. China has never participated in the event, but it sent observers to RIMPAC 1998.
The PLA Navy’s presence in this year’s exercise stems from an invitation extended by then-US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to send “one ship” during a visit to China last year. Chinese military and political officials had reportedly been unhappy that the Chinese navy was snubbed in the previous RIMPAC held in 2012.