The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy is far more prepared for the Rim of the Pacific naval exercises this year than it was in 2014, the first time that China participated.
Vice-Admiral Nora Tyson, commander of the US Third Fleet and the Combined Task Force commander of RIMPAC 2016, said she believes that China's second participation shows better preparation.
"I think the staff better understood the process and understood what the planning process was, and therefore was better prepared for it in 2016 than 2014," she said.
The PLA Navy fleet for RIMPAC 2016 is composed of five ships: the missile destroyer Xi'an, the missile frigate Hengshui, the supply ship Gaoyouhu, the hospital ship Peace Ark and the submarine rescue vessel Changdao. Three helicopters, a marine squad and a diving squad are also participating, with 1,200 officers and soldiers taking part.
The size of the crew is smaller than only those of the United States and Canada among the 26 nations participating in the exercises.
Wang Sheqiang, commanding officer of the Chinese fleet Task Force 153, described RIMPAC 2016 as a pageant for the world's navies.
"China's participation this time will help strengthen the professional exchange and practical cooperation between the Chinese Navy and other navies, help enhance the friendship among the participating nations and help build a new type of military-to-military relationship between China and the United States," he said.
During the exercises, which began on June 30 and will conclude on Aug 4, the PLA Navy fleet will participate in drills including gunfire, damage control and rescue, anti-piracy, search and rescue, and diving and submarine rescue.
RIMPAC also will enhance China's capability to deal with threats in nontraditional security fields and to ensure and promote peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, Wang said.
Vice-Admiral Tyson, the first woman to lead a US Navy fleet, said a country is usually invited the first time as an observer, while the second time it brings its ships and aircraft.
"Having participated as an observer and having participated by bringing ships and aircraft, then they may be considered for a leadership position," she told the opening news conference for RIMPAC 2016 on Tuesday at S-1 Pier of Pearl Harbor, where the participating navies have assembled.
Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, host of this year's exercises, agreed. "You don't want to push nations too early to play too big a role within the structure of the RIMPAC," said Swift.
He said the participating nations are joined by a shared interest in maritime cooperation in the Pacific, "where we are all locals, all locals here at RIMPAC, and that's regardless of geographic size, military might or economic strength".
A total of 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in the exercises in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.