China Signals Recent Patrols Near Alaska Are Only the Beginning

China Signals Recent Patrols Near Alaska Are Only the Beginning

‘The Americans should get used to it,’ one military analyst told a Chinese state news service of the joint flotilla with Russia that raised alarms in international waterways near Alaska.

Beijing has signaled that recent naval exercises near the Aleutian Islands that set off a political firestorm in Alaska and triggered a U.S. military response serve as only the beginning of a new era of confrontations to advance China’s global ambitions.

A joint flotilla of 11 Chinese and Russian warships patrolled international waters near the Alaskan island chain last week. Though it never entered U.S. territory, the maneuver was enough to raise widespread alarms within the U.S. and Canada. The Wall Street Journal first reported the patrol – what one analyst described to the paper as a “historical first” – as well as the response from U.S. Northern Command, which included scrambling several American warships and surveillance aircraft to monitor the opposing ships.

Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, a senior Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, blasted the Chinese and Russian patrol as representing “a new era of authoritarian aggression.” He issued a joint statement with fellow Alaska Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, saying Alaska Command had provided them with several classified briefings about the incident. The senators said the U.S. is not currently prepared militarily to counter the burgeoning threat.

China appeared to celebrate the fracas.

“In the future, the Chinese Navy could conduct more far sea patrols like this, either alone or together with other countries,” Chinese military analyst Fu Qianshao told the English-language Global Times in a story published late Monday. “The Americans should get [used] to it.”

Though not an official mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, the newspaper is aligned with its views and often serves as an outlet for statements party officials choose not to say publicly, current and former U.S. officials believe.

In this latest instance, representatives for the government openly acknowledged the gravity of the new drills and China and Russia’s desire to increase their frequency.

Known formally as the The Northern/Interaction-2023 joint exercises – which the Russian Ministry of Defense says involved traversing more than 2,300 nautical miles – the patrol served as a demonstration of “mutual trust between the two countries and further enhanced the traditional friendship between the Chinese and Russian militaries,” according to the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Tan Kefei.

He added that China is “is willing to continue to boost pragmatic communication and cooperation with all parties and contribute positive forces in safeguarding regional peace and stability as well as deal with all kinds of security threats,” the Global Times wrote.

“This action is not targeted at any third party and has nothing to do with the current international and regional situation,” the Chinese Embassy spokesman, Liu Pengyu, told the Journal.

The new action is seen to have wide-ranging consequences, beyond the message that Chinese state media says it presents to the U.S. – that Americans now understand what it feels like for U.S. Navy ships to conduct “freedom of navigation” operations between Taiwan and mainland China.

It portends a new era of China challenging what has been American strategic dominance of the Pacific region since the end of World War II, analysts say. Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a military commentator, described the presence of the Chinese and Russian ships as a “major” provocation in a social media post over the weekend.

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