The US military have spotted five Chinese Navy ships operating in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska, marking the first time the US military has seen them in the area, the Pentagon has announced .
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that they have been tracking the movements of the Chinese vessels in recent days after seeing them move toward the Aleutian Islands, the control of which is split between the US and Russia.
“This would be a first in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands,” one official noted about the warships, which have been operating in international waters. “I don’t think we’d characterize anything they’re doing as threatening.”
The fleet consists of three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel and an amphibious landing ship.
Interestingly, the move by Chinese naval forces coincides with US President Barack Obama’s three-day tour of Alaska to address climate changes.
The Pentagon told the Journal that the ships are still present in the region but refused to give out their whereabouts. It is not clear where the ships were spotted and how far off the Alaskan coast they were operating.
The US military is apparently confused by the possible motive behind the move which, according to the US officials, “is difficult to tell exactly, but it indicates some interest in the Arctic region.” They said there were a “variety of opinions” on how to interpret the move.
Beijing and Washington have been increasingly engaging in military standoffs during the past few months.
China accuses the United States of interfering in the regional issues and purposely stirring up tensions in the South China Sea, over half of which Beijing claims sovereignty.
In July the new US commander of the Pacific Fleet Admiral Scott Swift said that American forces are ready to respond to any unanticipated incident in the South China Sea.
Beijing also decided to showcase its strategic Dongfeng (East wind) 21D missile, dubbed the “carrier-killer.” The much-speculated weapon was kept a secret for years until China put it onto public display during a military parade on Thursday that marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II.
Some analysts say such missiles pose a major threat to aircraft carriers which form the basis of Washington’s current naval strategy.
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