Defence officials and legal experts have said during the week that the joint maritime exercises carried out by Russian and Chinese naval fleets, involving several ships, off the coast of Alaska last week were a show of strength that inspired a U.S. military response, although they did not pose a threat to the US or Canada.
A spokesperson mentioned that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) had deployed aircraft and vessels to monitor the Russian and Chinese naval fleets operating in the international waters.
Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in a joint statement on Saturday that 11 Russian and Chinese ships were working near the Aleutian Islands, and four American warships replied. Murkowski added that she and Sullivan had been in communication with Alaska Command officers for several days and had received specific secret information regarding foreign vessels travelling through American waters around Aleutian.
The spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy, Liu Pengyu, stated in a release, “In accordance with the annual cooperation plan between the Chinese and Russian militaries, naval vessels of both countries have recently conducted joint maritime exercises in relevant waters of the Western and Northern Pacific Ocean.” This action is not targeted at any third party and has no bearing on the current international and regional situation.
Sullivan mentioned that Russian and Chinese vessels had come close to Alaska in similar ways in past summers, with a “casual” response from a U.S. Coast Guard vessel that prompted pressure on senior military leaders to be better prepared for a stronger response in the future.
“For the same reason, I was pleased to see that four American destroyers were part of this latest transit, sending a strong signal to (Chinese President) Xi Jinping and (Russian President) Vladimir Putin that the United States will not hesitate to defend our vital national interests in Alaska,” Sullivan said.
Blake Herzinger, a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre in Australia, reiterated that the Chinese and Russian warships were not a threat and that they operated in accordance with international law, similar to how American naval vessels navigate near Chinese or Russian shores.
According to a July American intelligence report, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia and China have significantly deepened their defense and economic partnership, repeatedly pledging to strengthen their military ties.