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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Chinese military ships have been sighted near the Aleutian Islands of Alaska

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that Chinese Navy ships were sighted within the U.S. exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea by the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball during a routine patrol late last week.

The Kimball observed three Chinese ships approximately 124 miles north of the Amchitka Pass, a strait in the Aleutian Islands—an isolated archipelago stretching 1,200 miles from the Alaska Peninsula. Additionally, a Coast Guard plane stationed on Kodiak Island spotted a fourth Chinese ship 84 miles north of the Amukta Pass, situated between Amutka and Seguam islands.

While the Chinese ships were in international waters, they were inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from the U.S. shoreline, according to a statement from the Coast Guard.

Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Northern Command were said to be fully informed about the movements of the Chinese ships. The operation under which the Kimball patrolled, Operation Frontier Sentinel, aims to maintain a presence in response to strategic competitors operating in and around U.S. waters, the statement clarified.

Rear Adm. Megan Dean, commander of the Seventeenth Coast Guard District, emphasized that the Chinese naval presence adhered to international rules and norms. “We responded with appropriate presence to ensure there were no disruptions to U.S. interests in the maritime environment around Alaska,” she stated.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf established radio contact with a Chinese vessel in 2021.

The Chinese ships reportedly informed the Coast Guard that their mission involved “freedom of navigation operations.” The Kimball monitored the ships until they navigated south into the North Pacific Ocean, and it continues to surveil the area.

This is not the first instance of Chinese military ships being spotted in the Bering Sea by U.S. cutters; similar sightings occurred in 2021 and 2022, according to the Coast Guard.

As of now, China has not publicly commented on the U.S. Coast Guard’s statement regarding the recent sightings.

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