Chinese Warships Approach Alaska As US Navy Increases Presence In South China Sea

The US Coast Guard revealed a significant incident involving Chinese military vessels coming near American waters off Alaska. While the incident was first divulged to the public on Monday, it happened at the end of August. 

No less than four People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ships were spotted and shadowed by US vessels off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, including a guided missile destroyer and guided missile cruiser, as well as an intelligence gathering vessel and auxiliary ship. They stayed in international waters but came within the United States’ exclusive economic zone.

“During the deployment, Bertholf and Kimball observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast,” the Coast Guard statement said. “While the ships were within the US exclusive economic zone, they followed international laws and norms and at no point entered US territorial waters.”

The statement said further, “The Chinese vessels conducted military and surveillance operations during their deployment to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.”

A US Coast Guard source was later cited in a media report confirming that the Chinese ships were present in the US’ EEZ (exclusive economic zone: which extends far off the Alaskan coast) from August 29 to September 1. 

Despite at one point coming to within about 46 miles of a US island off Alaska, the Chinese naval task force stayed within international waters, though were firmly within the US EEZ – which extends about 230 miles off the Alaskan coast. 

The Coast Guard published images of the encounter wherein the US vessels shadowed the Chinese group, as Business Insider details: 

The four Chinese warships were shadowed and monitored by the US Coast Guard cutters Bertholf and Kimball and are visible in Coast Guard images. The crew of the Bertholf made radio contact with the the Chinese ships, and the service said all interactions were consistent with international standards.

US Coast Guard photo set of the prior encounter off Alaska

Chinese state mouthpiece Global Times on Monday featured insight by Chinese military analysts who said China’s navy is taking “countermeasure against US military provocations on China’s doorsteps in the name of freedom of navigation.”

This as the US Navy has stepped up maneuvers in the South China Sea, recently sending the USS Carl Vinson Carrier which for the first time carried F-35 stealth fighters on its deck. This had served to reportedly put the PLA military ‘on alert’ – given the US conducted drills launching the F-35 from the carrier deck for the first time ever near China-claimed waters in the region.