The United States military has sent four Navy destroyers to the waters off Alaska's coast after 11 warships from Russia and China were spotted patrolling near the Aleutian Islands last week.
Alaska's two U.S. senators, Dan Sullivan and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, issued a joint statement over the weekend saying they had been briefed on the operation and that "foreign vessels" have been operating in U.S. waters.
"The incursion by 11 Chinese and Russian warships operating together – off the coast of Alaska – is yet another reminder that we have entered a new era of authoritarian aggression led by the dictators in Beijing and Moscow," Sullivan said.
"Last summer the Chinese and Russian navies conducted a similar operation off the coast of Alaska," he added. "Given that our response was tepid, I strongly encouraged senior military leaders to be ready with a much more robust response should such another joint Chinese/Russian naval operation occur off our coast."
While the senators' statement suggested the ships were passing through U.S. waters, the Northern Command told the Wall Street Journal that the vessels never entered U.S. territory.
"Air and maritime assets under our commands conducted operations to assure the defense of the United States and Canada. The patrol remained in international waters and was not considered a threat," the command told the outlet.
Nonetheless, Murkowski said this is a reminder of the heightened tensions between the U.S. and its adversaries, specifically over Russia's war in Ukraine and China-Taiwan relations.
"This is a stark reminder of Alaska’s proximity to both China and Russia, as well as the essential role our state plays in our national defense and territorial sovereignty," she said in a statement. "Incursions like this are why we are working so hard to secure funding and resources to expand our military’s capacity and capabilities in Alaska, and why our colleagues must join us in supporting those investments."
China has emerged as Russia's most important trading partner since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine and both have also held joint military operations in recent months. And while China has vowed not to sell arms to any party in the Russia-Ukraine war, U.S. officials claim to have evidence that Beijing has considered sending lethal military aid to Moscow.
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