Chinese Warships Maneuver Near Alaska Coast for First Time Ever
23:58 02.09.2015 (updated 09:53 03.09.2015)
In a reported first, Pentagon officials on Wednesday reported that five Chinese Navy ships were spotted off the coast of Alaska.
Pentagon officials said they’ve been monitoring three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel, and an amphibious ship, which in the last few days have entered the Bering Sea.
Officials declined to say how close the vessels are to American shores, but stressed that the ships remain in international waters.
"This would be a first in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands," a defense official told the Wall Street Journal. "I don’t think we’d characterize anything they’re doing as threatening."
The incident comes just hours before a large-scale military parade is set to be held in Beijing. Meant to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the parade will showcase a variety of new Chinese military equipment.
Pentagon officials suggested there could be a number of ways to interpret the presence of the Chinese Navy in the area.
"It’s difficult to tell exactly, but it indicates some interest in the Arctic region," the official told the Wall Street Journal.
The move comes amid President Obama’s visit to the state, intended to highlight the effects of global warming. With rapidly melting sea ice, a number of nations are making claims on the waters of the energy-rich Arctic. The United States, Canada, Norway, Russia, and Denmark, have all staked claims.
Beijing is an active member of the Arctic Council.
The move could also be seen as a logical reaction to the growing presence of the US Navy in the Pacific, and, in particular, the South China Sea. Washington has repeatedly expressed concern over Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago. While the Chinese government has assured the US that those installations will be used primarily for humanitarian purposes, the Pentagon has staged a number of military drills with regional allies near Chinese waters.
The Chinese military also recently completed joint drills with Russia approximately 2,000 miles west of the Bering Sea.
The Chinese defense ministry has not provided any comment on the ships.
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