The US dispatched warships after Russian and Chinese military vessels carried out a patrol off the coast of the Aleutian Islands. “This is a stark reminder of Alaska's proximity to both China and Russia," US Senator Murkowski says.
Four US destroyers were dispatched to monitor Russian and Chinese military vessels, which recently patrolled near the coast of Alaska.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which first reported on the story, the combined Russian and Chinese naval patrol appeared to be the largest such flotilla to approach American territory.
In a joint statement released on Saturday, two US Senators commented on the Russian and Chinese naval patrol operating near Alaska, which consisted of 11 military vessels. The operation took place two weeks ago.
“We have been in close contact with leadership from the Alaska Command for several days now and received detailed classified briefings about the foreign vessels that are transiting US waters in the Aleutians,” said US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R).
“This is a stark reminder of Alaska's proximity to both China and Russia, as well as the essential role our state plays in our national defense and territorial sovereignty. Incursions like this are why we are working so hard to secure funding and resources to expand our military’s capacity and capabilities in Alaska and why our colleagues must join us in supporting those investments," Murkowski adds.
In the statement, US Senator Dan Sullivan describes the incursion by 11 Chinese and Russian warships operating together off the coast of Alaska as yet "another reminder that we have entered a new era of authoritarian aggression led by the dictators in Beijing and Moscow."
“In recognition of this reality and our state's unrivaled strategic location, for years, I’ve been pressing the Navy and each successive administration to commit to a greater Naval, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps presence in Alaska, more Arctic-capable vessels, and more infrastructure to host these assets, like the deep-water port of Nome," Sullivan continues.
A stark reminder of Alaska's proximity to both China and Russia, and the essential role our state plays in our national defense and territorial sovereignty.
According to the Guardian, which refers to WSJ, Brent Sadler, a retired Navy captain and Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said the flotilla’s proximity to Alaska was a “highly provocative” maneuver given Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and political tensions between the US and China over Taiwan.
The US Northern Command confirmed the combined Chinese and Russian naval patrol, telling the WSJ that “air and maritime assets under our commands conducted operations to assure the defense of the United States and Canada. The patrol remained in international waters and was not considered a threat.”
Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu told CNN in a statement that “according to the annual cooperation plan between the Chinese and Russian militaries, naval vessels of the two countries have recently conducted joint maritime patrols in relevant waters in the western and northern Pacific Ocean. This action is not targeted at any third party and has nothing to do with the current international and regional situation.”
Similar operation last summer
The statement also describes a similar event that occurred last summer, in which the Chinese and Russian navies conducted a similar operation off the coast of Alaska.
"Given that our response was tepid, I strongly encouraged senior military leaders to be ready with a much more robust response should such another joint Chinese/Russian naval operation occur off our coast. For that reason, I was heartened to see that this latest incursion was met with four U.S. Navy destroyers, which sends a strong message to Xi Jinping and Putin that the United States will not hesitate to protect and defend our vital national interests in Alaska.”
The WSJ reported that the US destroyers sent to track the flotilla were the USS John S McCain, the USS Benfold, the USS John Finn, and the USS Chung-Hoon.