NATIONAL NEWS

US Coast Guard patrol spots Chinese naval ships off Alaska island

Jul 10, 2024, 9:38 PM | Updated: Jul 11, 2024, 1:32 pm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A U.S. Coast Guard cutter on routine patrol in the Bering Sea came across several Chinese military ships in international waters but within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, officials said Wednesday.

The crew detected three vessels approximately 124 miles (200 kilometers) north of the Amchitka Pass in the Aleutian Islands, the Coast Guard said in a statement. A short time later, a helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak spotted a fourth ship approximately 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of the Amukta Pass.

All four of the People’s Republic of China vessels were “transiting in international waters but still inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone,” which extends 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the U.S. shoreline, the statement said.

“The Chinese naval presence operated in accordance with international rules and norms,” said Rear Adm. Megan Dean, Seventeenth Coast Guard District commander. “We met presence with presence to ensure there were no disruptions to U.S. interests in the maritime environment around Alaska.”

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball is a 418-foot (127-meter) ship based in Honolulu.

This wasn’t the first time Chinese naval ships have sailed near Alaska waters. In September 2022, the Kimball spotted guided missile cruiser from China in the Bering Sea. And in Sept. 2021, Coast Guard cutters in the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean encountered Chinese ships, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the Aleutian Islands.

The U.S. military routinely conducts what it calls freedom of navigation operations in disputed waters in Asia that China claims as its own, deploying Navy ships to sail through waterways such as the South China Sea. The U.S. says freedom of navigation in the waters is in America’s national interest.

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US Coast Guard patrol spots Chinese naval ships off Alaska island