(Singapore Aug 7, 2023)A combined Russian and Chinese naval force has patrolled near the coast of Alaska in what US experts said appeared to be the largest such flotilla to approach American shores.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, eleven Russian and Chinese ships steamed close to the Aleutian Islands, according to US officials. The ships, which never entered U.S. territorial waters and have since left, were shadowed by four U.S. destroyers and P-8 Poseidon aircraft.

The Russian and Chinese ships traveled close to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, but never entered U.S. territorial waters, according to U.S. officials. Photo: AP / WSJ

“It is a historical first,” said Brent Sadler, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a retired Navy captain, as quoted by WSJ.

“Given the context of the war in Ukraine and tensions around Taiwan, this move is highly provocative.”

A spokesman for the US Northern Command confirmed that Russia and China had carried out a combined naval patrol near Alaska, but didn’t specify the number of ships or their precise location.

“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 said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the patrol was a reminder that the US has entered “a new era of authoritarian aggression” and applauded the robust US response.

“According to the annual cooperation plan between the Chinese and Russian militaries, naval vessels of the two countries have recently conducted joint maritime patrols in relevant waters in the western and northern Pacific Ocean. 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, said.

China has become Russia’s most important trading partner since Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and a July report by the U.S. director for national intelligence says China has provided Russia with critical technology that can be used for military and civilian purposes, the WSJ report said.

But Biden administration officials say there is no indication that China has sent lethal military aid to Moscow for its war in Ukraine.

The USS John S. McCain, the USS Benfold, the USS John Finn and the USS Chung-Hoon responded to the flotilla, tracking its movement, a U.S. defense official said. The four destroyers were in addition to the American maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.