According to Pentagon sources, the five PLA vessels — comprising three surface combatants, an amphibious warship and a fleet oiler — made an “innocent passage” passing within 12 nautical miles of the Aleutian Islands that border the southern edge of the Bering Sea on Sept. 2….
While the Chinese military often conducts missions in the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Malacca as well as the East China and South China seas, this marks the first time PLA ships have been spotted near Alaska. Prior to this, the closest PLA vessels have approached to the US mainland was to participate in the US-led Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, held every two years around Hawaii.
Duowei believes the US will no doubt view the move as a strategic attempt to get closer to valuable Arctic resources. The US is already trying to fend off Russia’s efforts to claim a larger part of the region’s continental shelf and will now also have to contest with the creeping advances of China, which became a permanent observer state of the Arctic Council in 2013, Duowei added.
The timing of the PLA activity, however, suggests that Beijing may have intended to send several messages to Washington, Duowei said, noting that it took place a day before the high-profile military parade in Beijing on Sept. 3 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day — an event President Barack Obama chose to not attend — and also just as Obama completed a three-day visit to Alaska to attend an international conference on Arctic issues.
First, the decision to send warships to Alaska may have been a warning to Obama that he cannot ignore China’s rise, Duowei said. Further, Japan also attacked the Aleutian Island chain after bombing Pearl Harbor, so the move could have also been a subtle “reminder of World War II history,” Duowei added.
Third, the PLA vessels ventured to Alaska as China stands accused of aggressive behavior in territorial disputes in the East China and South China seas. The move could therefore be seen as a means of provoking Washington, which had been citing freedom of navigation to criticize China’s island-building and military constructions in the South China Sea, Duowei said. In this case, however, China made sure there was nothing the US could do except to admit that the PLA ships had made an “innocent passage” through the Aleutian Island chain “in a manner consistent with international law.” According to Duowei, it is also a reminder of what Xi said to visiting US secretary of state John Kerry in May: “The broad Pacific Ocean is vast enough to embrace both China and the United States.”
Full article: PLA warships off Alaska a ‘smart strategic move’: Duowei (Want China Times)