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Ahoy, Alaska! Chinese Navy Ships Sail the Bering Sea

Despite President Obama’s heroic effort to chase them off with a selfie stick, five Chinese Navy ships persisted in sailing off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea on Wednesday.

“The White House said that the intent of the Chinese operation was unclear, but that the Pentagon had not detected any threatening activities,” reports the New York Times.

Actually, the intentions of this unprecedented trip to Alaska might not be all that unclear.  “The foray may be more about economics than defense,” the Times speculates in the very next paragraph of its story. “The Arctic has become hotly contested as the United States, Russia and China, among other nations, have expanded their economic and security interests. A growing number of vessels have been traveling north through the Bering Strait, and the Coast Guard has diverted ships from other core missions to manage the traffic.”

Also, China has been “flexing its military muscle, particularly off its own coast,” increased its military spending, developed stealth fighter technology, and begun construction of an aircraft carrier.  Lately they’ve been parading “carrier-killer” missiles through the streets of Beijing, with some analysts suggesting, as the Financial Times put it, the weapons could “reshape the balance of power in the western Pacific.”  There are not many national flags one might see flying above the deck of a “carrier-killer” missile’s target.

The Bering Sea cruise, which all observers agree was not an illegal territorial violation, looks like another muscle flex.  The Wall Street Journal describes the flotilla as consisting of “three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel, and an amphibious landing ship.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, China celebrated “World War II Victory Day” with military parades on Thursday, and President Xi Jinping is due to visit the United States later this month.

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