WASHINGTON — A five-ship Chinese naval squadron shoved off from a port in Zhejiang Province Wednesday, headed for a rendezvous with US Navy warships in the western Pacific and another round of international Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises around Hawaii.
The Chinese also took part in the 2014 exercises, when four invited People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) participants were joined by an uninvited PLAN intelligence ship.
RIMPAC, billed as the world's largest naval exercises, takes place every other year.
That the Chinese will return to Pearl Harbor rankles some observers who believe they should be disinvited because of their island-building activities in the South China Sea. But the US government and Navy have steadfastly kept out the welcome mat for the Chinese — and Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, will visit China during the exercises before he heads to Pearl Harbor.
As reported by the Chinese news agency Xinhua, the PLAN squadron left Zhoushan after a sendoff from deputy Navy commander Rear Adm. Wang Hai.
The destroyer Xi'an, frigate Hengshui, supply ship Gaoyouhu, submarine rescue vessel Changdao and hospital ship Daishandao — "Peace Ark" in English — will meet up with the US Navy destroyers Stockdale and William P. Lawrence on June 18 and form one of four "group sails" en route to Pearl, said Lt. Julianne Holland, a spokesperson for the US Third Fleet in San Diego, which is organizing the exercise.
Another group from the western Pacific, dubbed the "Singapore group," will consist of the Japanese aviation-capable destroyer Hyuga, Indian frigate Satpura, Indonesian frigate Diponegoro, Singaporean frigate Steadfast and US destroyer Chung-Hoon.
Two groups are scheduled to leave San Diego next week for the exercises, Holland said.
On June 21, the US amphibious assault ship America, amphibious transport dock San Diego and destroyer Howard will leave San Diego joined by the Canadian frigate Vancouver and Chilean frigate Cochrane.
On June 22, the US cruiser Princeton, destroyer Pinckney and littoral combat ship Coronado will be joined by the US Coast Guard cutter Stratton and Canadian frigate Calgary leaving San Diego.
The littoral combat ship Freedom will join in RIMPAC exercises but not in Hawaii. Rather, she will be part of a six-ship "southern California" group taking part in exercises out of San Diego. Freedom will be joined by the amphibious ship Pearl Harbor and minesweeper Champion, along with the Canadian maritime coastal defense vessels Saskatoon and Yellowknife and the Mexican amphibious ship Usumacinta.
The carrier John C. Stennis and her strike group also will take part as the only aircraft carrier in this year's RIMPAC.
The full list of participants is on the RIMPAC web page at http://www.cpf.navy.mil/rimpac/