Uninvited Chinese visitor drops in on trilateral US-Japan-India naval exercises

A Chinese recon ship was photographed by a US Navy photographer during the Malabar 2018 exercises held near Guam last week

Photo released by the US Navy reportedly showing the Chinese recon vessel "855 Tianshuxing"

Photo released by the US Navy reportedly showing the Chinese recon vessel "855 Tianshuxing"

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The three nations of the U.S., Japan and India dispatched navy vessels to participate in joint maneuvers as part of the “Malabar 2018” exercises held in waters near Guam this week.

The U.S. Navy reported on Monday, June 18 that during the trilateral exercises which officially ended June 16, that 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” (天樞星), 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, reports ON.CC.

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.

According to a June 19 press release:

“The exercise accomplished maritime interoperability training objectives among the three maritime forces, emphasizing high-end war fighting skills, maritime superiority, and power projection. This is the first year that Malabar was conducted in the Guam operation area.”