Chinese naval presence off Alaskan coast appears to be a first
Jeremy Page in Beijing and Gordon Lubold report: Five Chinese navy ships are currently operating in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, the first time the U.S. military has seen such activity in the area, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
The officials said they have been aware in recent days that three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel and an amphibious ship were in the vicinity after observing them moving toward the Aleutian Islands, which are split between U.S. and Russian control.
They said the Chinese ships were still in the area, but declined to specify when the vessels were first spotted or how far they were from the coast of Alaska, where President Barack Obama is winding up a three-day visit.
“This would be a first in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands,” one defense official said of the Chinese ships. “I don’t think we’d characterize anything they’re doing as threatening.” The Pentagon official confirmed that the five ships were operating in international waters.
Pentagon officials also said there was no information suggesting the Chinese ships had gone through the Bering Strait, a narrow waterway north of the sea that abuts Alaska.
China’s defense ministry couldn’t be reached to comment.
The presence of the Chinese ships so close to U.S. shores is the latest demonstration of how China’s military is rapidly expanding its operations far from its own coast to protect the nation’s growing global interests.
The Chinese naval activity comes as Mr. Obama visits Alaska and the Arctic region to highlight climate change. The naval operation also comes just before Chinese President Xi Jinping presides over a World War II Victory Day parade on Thursday that the U.S. and its allies fear is being used to showcase China’s new military strength and ambition.
Mr. Xi is heading to the U.S. in late September for a state visit, which has already been overshadowed by tensions over Chinese military activity, including alleged cyberattacks on the U.S. and island-building in the South China Sea. Read the rest of this entry »