Five Chinese Navy ships are sailing in international waters in the Bering Sea off Alaska coast, coinciding with President Barack Obama’s visit to the the U.S. state.
US defence officials have spotted three Chinese combat ships, a supply vessel and an amphibious ship moving toward the Aleutian Islands which is split between Russian and US control, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Its for the first time the U.S. military has seen them in the area. The U.S. has been tracking the flotilla – made up of three combat ships, a resupply ship and an amphibious ship – for days.
The Pentagon has not detected any threatening activity from the Chinese navy vessels in the Bering Sea, the White House said.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said: "We respect the freedom of all nations to operate military vessels in international waters in accordance with international law."
Navy Commander Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday the sighting marked the first time ships from the People's Liberation Army Navy were seen in the Bering Sea.
The appearance of the ships is an example of the expanding reach of China's navy and overlapped with a three-day visit by Obama to Alaska as part of his efforts to raise awareness about climate change.
The Pentagon did not disclose the location of the vessels, other than to confirm they were in the Bering Sea, which lies between Alaska and Russia.
China became a permanent observer to the Arctic Council
in 2013 and has shown increased interest in the region’s energy reserves. The council’s members are the eight Arctic states: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
China has ramped up defense spending to modernize its forces and wants to develop an ocean-going "blue water" navy capable of defending its growing interests as the world's second-largest economy.