The U.S. Navy says it is closely watching a Chinese spy ship in international waters near the U.S. state of Hawaii, as 25 nations participate the world’s largest international naval warfare exercises nearby.

“They (China) are spying on international exercises,” a U.S. defense official told VOA on Friday.

A U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet spokesperson added that the Navy “expect(s) this ship will remain outside of U.S. territorial seas and not operate in a manner that disrupts the ongoing Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises.”

A Navy official said the Chinese surveillance ship arrived in the waters off Hawaii on Wednesday and is operating within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. The official added that the Navy has taken “all precautions necessary to protect critical information.”

China was disinvited from participating in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) in May.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said recent Chinese military actions in the South China Sea destabilized the region and ran counter to international norms for freedom of navigation in international waters.

“China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise,” Logan said.

The Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander, Chilean Commodore Pablo Nieman, was disappointed with the presence of the Chinese spy ship.

“I hope and expect all seafarers to act professionally so we may continue to focus on the work at hand and building on the spirit of cooperation that gives purpose to this exercise,” he said.

Officials say the Chinese have spied on RIMPAC before.

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