(CNN) — A multi-vessel Russian and Chinese naval patrol operated off the Alaskan coast last week, US defense officials and lawmakers said over the weekend, a show of force that prompted a military response. but posed no threat to the United States or Canada, a US Northern Command spokesperson told CNN.
NORTHCOM and the North American Aerospace Defense Command deployed planes and ships to monitor the Russian and Chinese patrol, which remained in international waters, the spokesman said.
Alaska Republican Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski said in a statement Saturday that a total of 11 Russian and Chinese ships had been operating near the Aleutian Islands, and were met in response by four US Navy destroyers. Murkowski said she and Sullivan had been in “close contact with Alaska Command leadership for several days now and received detailed classified briefings on foreign vessels transiting US waters in the Aleutians.”
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Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu told CNN in a statement that “according to the annual cooperation plan between the Chinese and Russian militaries, naval vessels of the two countries have recently carried out joint maritime patrols in relevant waters. Western and Northern Pacific Ocean. This action is not directed against any third party and has nothing to do with the current international and regional situation.”
Sullivan recalled that Chinese and Russian ships similarly approached Alaska last summer and were boarded by a US Coast Guard ship then on a routine patrol, a “tepid” response, the senator added, which led him to press to the military high command so that they would be prepared with a stronger response in the future.
“For that reason, I was heartened to see that this latest raid was responded to with four US 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 researcher at the Center for American Studies in Australia, echoed NORTHCOM’s response that the Chinese and Russian warships did not constitute a threat and acted in accordance with international law, as did U.S. Navy ships do when they operate off the Chinese or Russian coasts.
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But he said the US statement affirming the navigation rights of foreign warships contrasted with Beijing’s reactions to similar US Navy navigations.
“Chinese responses to similar operations in the Indo-Pacific … exaggerate imaginary threats and portray their military response as efforts to drive invaders out of their waters,” Herzinger said.
Russia and China have sharply intensified their defense and economic partnership since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, according to a US intelligence report in July, and the countries have repeatedly vowed to strengthen their military ties.