Chinese Warships Spotted Sailing Just Outside US Coastal Waters Off Alaska

Four Chinese Navy warships were spotted sailing just outside the United States’ exclusive economic zone late last month, in a development likely to raise tensions between the two world powers.

Coast Guard personnel photographed four warships just outside US territorial waters near the Aleutian Islands. The Chinese vessels included a a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, an intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel. The Coast Guard doesn’t believe the vessels entered the US exclusive economic zone in their pass of the Aleutian Islands, making the exercise legal, if not provocative.

The Defense Visual Information Distribution Service published photos of the close exchange between the Coast Guard and Chinese Navy on Sunday.

The Aleutian Islands, located south of the Bering Strait in the north Pacific Ocean, have national security implications. Several of the islands were occupied by Japan during World War II, in one of the few instances in American history in which a US territory was occupied by a foreign power. The islands have since become part of the US mainland through Alaska’s statehood. Some of the Aleutian Islands remain part of the Russian federation.

At one point, Captain Tim Brown of the Coast Guard communicated with the commanders of the Chinese Navy ship, a standard practice for military or civilian vessels that encounter each other in close proximity at sea.

Chinese Navy vessels were previously seen sailing in the Bering Strait in 2015. The exercise may serve as a retaliation for US Navy exercises and presence in the South China Sea, an area which contains islands and territorial waters disputed between China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

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