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Russian, Chinese warships patrol off Alaskan coast together; US destroyers shadow

Alaska's Cook Inlet, with a view of Mount Redoubt, in Homer, Alaska. (Dreamstime/TNS)
August 07, 2023

Eleven Russian and Chinese naval ships patrolled close to the Alaskan coast last week, marking the largest combined force of Chinese and Russian ships to sail close to U.S. shores.

According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials noted that the eleven Russian Russian and Chinese ships sailed near the Aleutian Islands. The ships never passed into U.S. territorial waters; however, the ships were reportedly shadowed by P-8 Poseidon aircraft, as well as four U.S. destroyer ships before leaving the region.

“It is a historical first,” Brent Sadler, retired Navy captain and senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said. “Given the context of the war in Ukraine and tensions around Taiwan, this move is highly provocative.”

A U.S. Northern Command spokesperson confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that Russia and China had executed a combined patrol near the coast of Alaska.

“Air and maritime assets under our commands conducted operations to assure the defense of the United States and Canada,” the command spokesperson said. “The patrol remained in international waters and was not considered a threat.”

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A U.S. defense official said the USS John S. McCain, the USS Benfold, USS Chung-Hoon, and the USS John Finn shadowed the Russian and Chinese naval patrol, keeping a close watch on the patrol’s movements. U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and maritime patrol were also used to monitor the Russian and Chinese patrol ships.

On Friday, Russia’s Defense Ministry explained that Russian and Chinese ships had executed communications training and helicopter drills, as well as a combined anti-submarine exercise in the Bering Sea, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“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,” Liu Pengyu, Chinese Embassy spokeswoman, said. “This action is not targeted at any third party and has nothing to do with the current international and regional situation.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, claimed the Russian and Chinese patrol served as “another reminder that we have entered a new era of authoritarian aggression led by the dictators in Beijing and Moscow.”

Sullivan said he was encouraged to see the United States Navy meet the “latest incursion” with four U.S. Navy destroyers, adding that the quick response of the U.S. “sends a strong message to Xi Jinping and Putin that the United States will not hesitate to protect and defend our vital national interests in Alaska.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, Adm. John Aquilino, leader of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, recently noted that Russian and Chinese combined exercises and operations have continued to increase.

“I only see the cooperation getting stronger, and boy that’s concerning. That’s a dangerous world,” Aquilino said.