A Chinese surveillance ship has been detected observing the Valiant Shield military exercise from within the United States’ exclusive economic zone — a move the U.S. actually doesn’t mind.
One Chinese auxiliary general intelligence vessel has been watching most of Valiant Shield since it began Sept. 15 in and around Guam, military officials said Monday.
The exercise, which ends Tuesday, involves 18,000 servicemembers from the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army simulating combat against each other.
Valiant Shield comes in the midst of tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, much of which involve China’s rapidly modernizing military and its territorial ambitions.
China stakes an ambiguous claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, including areas that the most nations consider international waters.
In recent years, Chinese ships have harassed U.S. ships operating in the international waters that compose China’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ — mostly notably in 2009, when the USNS Impeccable was surrounded by five vessels.
Chinese ships have repeatedly been observed within United States EEZ borders in the past year. U.S. officials have stated they hope the moves will persuade China to shift its position against foreign military movements in its EEZ.
“We’d like to reinforce that military operations in international commons and outside of territorial waters and airspace is a fundamental right that all nations have,” Valiant Shield spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Kim Dixon said Monday. “The Chinese were following international norms, which is completely acceptable.”
An EEZ extends as far as 200 nautical miles from a nation’s borders. EEZs confer fishing, mining and other economic rights, but they are not territorial waters belonging to any one country.