Five Chinese navy ships are currently operating in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, the first time the U.S. military has seen such activity in the area, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
The officials said they have been aware in recent days that three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel and an amphibious ship were in the vicinity after observing them moving toward the Aleutian Islands, which are split between U.S. and Russian control.
They said the Chinese ships were still in the area, but declined to specify when the vessels were first spotted or how far they were from the coast of Alaska, where President Barack Obama is winding up a three-day visit.
“This would be a first in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands,” one defense official said of the Chinese ships. “I don’t think we’d characterize anything they’re doing as threatening.” The Pentagon official confirmed that the five ships were operating in international waters.
Pentagon officials also said there was no information suggesting the Chinese ships had gone through the Bering Strait, a narrow waterway north of the sea that abuts Alaska.