A US Coast Guard ship conducting a routine patrol in the Bering Sea ran into a Chinese guided-missile cruiser, authorities said Monday.
But it turned out the cruiser wasn’t alone, sailing about 86 miles (138 kilometers) north of Alaska’s Kiska Island on Sept. 19.
The patrol boat, known as a cutter named Kimball, was later found to be two other Chinese naval ships and four Russian naval ships, including a destroyer, all in single formation.
The Honolulu-based Kimball, a 418-foot (127-meter) ship, watched as the ships broke formation and scattered. A C-130 Hercules provided air support to the Kimball from the Coast Guard Station in Kodiak.
“While the formation has operated in accordance with international rules and regulations, we will deliver presence to presence to ensure there are no disruptions to US interests in the maritime environment around Alaska,” Rear Adm. Nathan Moore, commander of the Seventeenth Coast Guard District.
The Coast Guard said Operation Frontier Sentinel guidelines require compliance with “presence with presence” when strategic competitors operate in and around US waters.
The Kimball will continue to monitor the area.
The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to questions about the incident from The Associated Press.
The Chinese and Russian formation came a month after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned of China’s interest in the Arctic and Russia’s military buildup there.
Stoltenberg said Russia has established a new Arctic Command and opened hundreds of new and old Soviet-era Arctic military sites, including deep-water ports and airfields.
China has declared itself a “near Arctic” state and plans to build the world’s largest icebreaker, he said.
“Beijing and Moscow also pledged to step up practical cooperation in the Arctic. This is part of a deepening strategic partnership that challenges our values and interests,” Stoltenberg said on a visit to northern Canada.
This was not the first time Chinese naval ships had sailed near Alaskan waters. In September 2021, Coast Guardsmen in the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean encountered Chinese ships, some as close as 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Aleutian Islands.