TOKYO — While much of the world was focusing on Beijing’s World War II victory celebrations earlier this month, five Chinese navy ships were gliding into U.S. territorial waters off Alaska. Though China was within its rights under international law, it was nevertheless a daring move, coming just as U.S. President Barack Obama was wrapping up a visit to the northernmost state. Security experts are now mulling who ordered the maneuver — and what message they wanted to send.
Chinese naval vessels visited San Diego last year, but that was at the invitation of the U.S. military. The Alaska incident was the first time any Chinese battleship had entered American waters without prior discussions, according to U.S. government sources.
National security experts in Japan and the U.S. note that the Chinese military began sailing in and out of the U.S. economic exclusion zone about two years ago. But the zone stretches as far as 200 nautical miles (370km) from the coast. This time, the vessels reportedly entered territorial waters in the Bering Sea that extend just 12 nautical miles from U.S. soil.