Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships traveled within 46 miles of Alaska’s Aleutian Island coast last month and were photographed by U.S. Coast Guard images released on Sunday.
The images, taken by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, spotted the Chinese ships on Aug. 30 inside the U.S. exclusive economic zone located near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The Drive first reported Monday on the images’ release.
“The PLAN task force included a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel. The Chinese vessels conducted military and surveillance operations during their deployment to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
At least three of the Chinese ships could be seen in the distance in one of the photos released by the Coast Guard.
The Bertholf crew made radio contact with the PLAN ships during the encounter. It’s not clear if the U.S. issued any warnings to the Chinese ships, however.
“All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international laws and norms,” the Coast Guard said in a brief statement with the images. “At no point did the PLAN task force enter U.S. territorial waters.”
The Japanese Ministry of Defense Joint Staff, along with independent ship observers, said the ships appeared to be Type 055 destroyer Nanchang, Type 052D destroyer Guiyang, replenishment ship 903, and electronic surveillance ship 799.
Chinese state-run Global Times media outlet described the Type 055 destroyer as “one of China’s most powerful warships,” and cited a Chinese military expert who said China is expected to increase its training is more distant waters in the future.
The Global Times insisted that the U.S. sent the Coast Guard ships “because it is wary of the presence of Chinese warships close to the country, particularly advance destroyers like the Type 055.”
Bertholf was operating alongside cutter Kimball – both of which are 418-foot Legend-class national security cutters — and 420-foot medium icebreaker Healy. The U.S. ships were on a routine patrol in the Bering Sea and Arctic region.
“Security in the Bering Sea and the Arctic is homeland security,” said Vice Adm. Michael McAllister, commander Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The U.S. Coast Guard is continuously present in this important region to uphold American interests and protect U.S. economic prosperity.”