Chinese warships were spotted near Alaska, according to reports, just days after China vowed to respond to a “provocation” by the United States in the South China Sea.
While they did not enter U.S. territorial waters, they were said to have come within America’s exclusive economic zone.
The four People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels were observed by the Coast Guard sailing within 46 miles of the Aleutian Islands, the Coast Guard said, according to CNS News.
The Chinese ships were discovered during a “routine” patrol of the Bering Sea and the Arctic region by two Coast Guard cutters, the Coast Guard added.
The four foreign ships, described as a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel, were performing “military and surveillance operations” and stayed in international waters, according to the Coast Guard. Territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from the coast.
Two of the ships were identified as brand-new additions to China’s fleet, CNS News said.
A photo shared by the Coast Guard showed Coast Guard cutter Bertholf establishing radio contact with one of the foreign ships on Aug. 29. The ships lingered in America’s exclusive economic zone until Sept. 1, the Coast Guard told Business Insider.
The ships never entered territorial waters, and both parties followed international norms. Still, it’s a threatening gesture as China escalates its rhetoric over United States naval exercises in the South China Sea.
China touts “countermeasure”
A Chinese propaganda newspaper, the Global Times, called the operation near Alaska a “countermeasure” and quoted a Chinese military expert who described it as “a signal against the US actions of hegemony” in the South China sea, which China claims as almost entirely its own.
The editor of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, has warned that Chinese warships will “show up near Hawaii and Guam one day” in the near future, according to CNS News.
The United States says it is asserting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, control of which is disputed by China’s neighbors. According to CNS, two-thirds of the world’s maritime trade passes through the sea.