The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy fleet is scheduled to sail into Pearl Harbor on Wednesday to participate in the Rim of the Pacific naval exercises, known as RIMPAC 2016.
The Chinese fleet consists of five ships, the missile destroyer Xi'an; missile frigate Hengshui; supply ship Gaoyouhu; hospital ship Peace Ark; submarine rescue vessel Changdao; three helicopters, a marine squad and a diving squad, including 1,200 officers and soldiers.
The Chinese task force members left Zhoushan in East China's Zhejiang province on June 15. They were joined in the west Pacific on June 18 by the USS Stockdale and USS William P Lawrence in the so-called "group sail" to Hawaii.
The group sail gives the ship crews the chance to operate together and conduct basic training, such as tactical maneuvering drills and communication systems checks, before the more complex RIMPAC begins, according to Stars and Stripes, a US military newspaper.
The RIMPAC 2016, which carries a theme of "Capable, Adaptive, Partners", will be held from June 30 to Aug 4. The PLA Navy will take part in drills including gunfire, damage control and rescue, anti-piracy, search and rescue, and diving and submarine rescue. Chinese officers and soldiers also will participate in a range of sporting events.
It is the second time China is participating in the biennial RIMPAC. China took part for the first time in 2014, when it sent a fleet of four ships with some 1,100 personnel. The Chinese contingent this time is said to be the third largest, trailing only the US and Canada.
After Brazil dropped out at the last minute, 26 nations, 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in RIMPAC 2016 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. It's the 25th year of exercises in the series, which began in 1971.
Three nations, Denmark, Germany and Italy, will participate in RIMPAC for the first time.
Military-to-military exchanges between China and the US have warmed up in recent years despite some tensions. US laws still bar its military from providing or engaging in combat-related training with China's military. There has been talk in the US Congress opposing China's participation in RIMPAC.
"To say the argument is ill-advised is an understatement," said Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow of John L. Thornton China Center of Brookings Institution.
Pollack said "it's good that China is going. You know this may cause some unease for some Americans who are very skeptical about China, but China is as much a stakeholder in the Asia-Pacific security environment as anybody else."