China appears to feel that its naval buildup has progressed sufficiently to allow it to retaliate against the US naval presence in the East China Sea by sending surveillance ships to Hawaiian waters.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) electronic reconnaissance ship spotted in Hawaiian waters is most likely of about 4,000-ton displacement and is equipped with various electronic gear for eavesdropping on radio communications and tracking ships and aircraft. It is also believed to have jamming equipment to interfere with the radio communications of other ships.
The ship apparently sailed inside the US 200-nautical mile EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) though there is no indication it violated the US 12-nautical mile (13.8-mile) territorial waters defined by the 1982 UN convention on the Law of the Sea. The US has been sending recon ships and planes inside China’s EEZ for decades, but this is the first time that China has acknowledged sending a surveillance ship into the US EEZ.
The recent deployment of a PLAN surveillance ship into Hawaiian waters is seen as Beijing’s message to the US and the rest of the world that China can now contest the waters of the western Pacific and that the US Navy no longer has a free pass in the region. It is also seen as a form of retaliation for what Beijing considers the provocative naval exercises the US recently conducted in the Yellow Sea jointly with the navies of South Korea and Japan’s Self-Defense Force. China’s three major fleets are currently also conducting the Mobile 5 naval exercise in undisclosed western Pacific waters.
In the parlance of PLA military strategists the Hawaiian islands are considered the center of the “third island chain” extending from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to Australia and demarks the “strategic rear” of the US Asia-Pacific military forces. Being only about 2,400 miles from San Francisco, the crossing of the third island chain by PLAN would represent a potential for offensive actions against the US by the Chinese military — Beijing’s perspective, roughly analogous to the regular encroachments by the US navy across the second island chain which is deemed to stretch from Japan to Indonesia.
Full article: China Retaliates Against US Naval Presence with Ships in Hawaiian Waters (Gold Sea Asian American News)