Chinese Navy Ships spotted off Alaska during Obama visit

Five Chinese navy ships have been spotted in the Bering Sea, off the Alaska coast, while President Obama is on a three-day tour of the state to talk about climate change.

A Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday the sighting “marked the first time ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy were seen in the Bering Sea.”

It’s unlikely Beijing planned the deployment to coincide with Obama’s trip, but many analysts see this as a “fresh attempt by Beijing to project military power far from its shores,” reported Voice of America news.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday that the Defense Department “positively identified a number of Chinese naval vessels in that region, but based on their analysis, they have not detected any sort of threat or threatening activities.”

While speaking aboard Air Force One, Earnest said the intent of the ships’ presence “is still unclear.”

However, analysts guess the presence during Obama’s visit is coincidental, since deployment like that is normally planned months in advance.

China has repeatedly expressed concerns about the fact that the U.S. military has numerous bases in Asia and regularly conducts various air-and-ship-based activities off China’s coasts in international waters.  VOA Beijing correspondent William Ide noted: “It feels like China’s trying to say if you’re going to continue to do this, we’re going to do the same.”

The Wall Street Journal – which was the first news outlet to report the sighting—stated there were “three surface warfare ships, one amphibious assault ship and one supply vessel.”

Scott Harold of the RAND Corporation said an amphibious assault vessel would be absurd as a threat. “No one is going to invade the United States by ground or by sea, much less are they going to do it in Alaska.”

The U.S. military reportedly has been aware of the ships and tracking their movements for days as they moved through international waters.


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