A Russian and Chinese naval patrol consisting of multiple vessels operated last week off the coast of Alaska, defense officials and lawmakers said over the weekend – a show of force that prompted a US military response but did not pose a threat to the US or Canada, according to a US Northern Command spokesperson who spoke with CNN.
A representative for NORTHCOM and the North American Aerospace Defense Command stated that aircraft and ships had been dispatched to monitor the Russian and Chinese patrol, which remained in international waters.
The Republican senators of Alaska, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, issued a statement on Saturday indicating that eleven Russian and Chinese vessels had been operating near the Aleutian Islands. In response, the United States Navy dispatched four destroyers. Murkowski stated that she and Sullivan had been in “close contact with leadership from Alaska Command for several days now and received detailed classified briefings about the foreign vessels that are transiting U.S. waters in the Aleutians.”
Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy, informed CNN in a statement: “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.”
Alaska Encounters: Calls for Stronger US Military Response to Chinese and Russian Vessels
According to Sullivan, Chinese and Russian vessels approached Alaska similarly close last summer and were greeted by a routine US Coast Guard patrol. The senator added that the Coast Guard’s “tepid” response prompted him to urge senior military leaders to be prepared for a more robust response in the future.
“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 (Chinese President) Xi Jinping and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin that the United States will not hesitate to protect and defend our vital national interests in Alaska,” Sullivan said.
Blake Herzinger, a research fellow at the United States Studies Center in Australia, reiterated the NORTHCOM statement that Chinese and Russian warships presented no threat and acted in accordance with international law, as do US Navy vessels operating off the coasts of China and Russia.
However, he noted that the US statement affirming the foreign warships’ navigation rights was in contrast to Beijing’s response to similar US Navy sailings.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia and China have significantly increased their defense and economic partnership, according to a US intelligence report from July, and both nations have repeatedly pledged to strengthen their military ties.