Chinese Naval Ships in Close Encounter off U.S.

Several Chinese military ships were involved in an encounter with U.S. Coast Guard vessels in the Bering Sea near Alaska at the weekend, the Coast Guard said.

The presence of the four Chinese naval vessels marks a rare venture close to the waters of the United States, whose own naval forces have frequently been in confrontation with China’s in the disputed waters of the South China Sea and near Taiwan.

“We met presence with presence to ensure there were no disruptions to U.S. interests in the maritime environment around Alaska,” Rear Admiral Megan Dean, Seventeenth Coast Guard District commander, was quoted as saying of the encounter in the statement.

China’s naval forces have expanded rapidly in recent years as Beijing has challenged the dominance of the United States in the world’s oceans. China now has more naval ships than the United States even if they have smaller firepower.

China’s navy has also become more active globally, including in the Arctic.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756) found three vessels about 124 miles north of Amchitka Pass in the Aleutian Islands, which lie between Alaska and Russia. Meanwhile, an aircrew from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak identified a fourth vessel roughly 84 miles north of Amukta Pass, the Coast Guard said.

All four Chinese vessels were traveling through international waters but remained within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, which stretches 200 nautical miles from the U.S. shoreline, it said.

The Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew on a routine patrol in the Bering Sea encountered a People’s Republic of China Guided Missile Cruiser, Renhai CG 101, sailing approximately 75 nautical miles north of Kiska Island,…

U.S. Coast Guard

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea gives countries Exclusive Economic Zones—granting a sovereign right to the maritime resources—of not more than 200 nautical miles beyond the 12 nautical mile territorial sea.

Newsweek contacted the Chinese embassy in the United States. A spokesperson for the Department of Defense told Newsweek it had nothing to add beyond the Coast Guard’s comment.

The Coast Guard said the Chinese vessels had responded to radio communication and that they had stated their purpose as “freedom of navigation operations.”

The U.S. has frequently conducted what it calls from freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and transits of the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and the Communist-ruled mainland. Such operations in disputed waters that China claims as its own have drawn Chinese ire.

Tensions have risen recently over self-ruling Taiwan, which has never been under Communist rule, but which Beijing sees as a breakaway province. Tensions have also been high in the South China Sea, where several countries challenge China’s claims.

The Coast Guard said that the cutter Kimball had kept monitoring all the Chinese ships until they moved south of the Aleutian Islands and out into the North Pacific Ocean.

“The Kimball continues to monitor activities in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone to ensure the safety of U.S. vessels and international commerce in the area,” it said.

It noted that there had also been encounters with Chinese vessels in the Bering Sea in 2021 and 2022. Russian and Chinese warships were spotted in the Bering Sea several dozen miles off an Alaskan island in September 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard said at the time.