Chinese Navy Sails Its ‘Most Powerful Warship’ Near Alaska; Sets ‘Alarm Bells’ Ringing In The US

A PLA Navy flotilla comprising one of China’s most powerful warships recently sailed in the international waters near Alaska, according to reports. 

China’s state-run Global Times cited a news report purportedly published by a website affiliated to the US Department of Defense, which was later deleted.  

“If the report is true, activities by Chinese warships are likely a normal far-sea training amid the PLA Navy’s rapid development of such capabilities”, Chinese analysts said on September 13.

They also noted that this development could be seen as China’s countermeasure against the US military’s “provocations” in the South China Sea in the name of “freedom of navigation”, Global Times reported.

A US Coast Guard vessel spotted and established radio contact with a Chinese PLAN task force. (Image: DVIDS)

A four-ship PLA Navy task force, including a guided-missile cruiser, a guided-missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel sailed in international waters inside the US Exclusive Economic Zone, off the coast of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, on August 29 and 30, it claimed.

Even though the names of the PLA vessels were not released in the DVIDS report, the caption of one of the pictures, released on the DVIDS website, says that “the PLAN task force included a guided-missile cruiser, a guided-missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel”.

According to independent observers, Japanese authorities had reported four PLAN warships transiting east to west through the Soya Strait, which would have pointed them in the general direction of the EEZ off Alaska, on Aug 24.

Those vessels included a Type 055 destroyer, which the US military has categorized as a cruiser in the past, as well as a Type 052D destroyer, a Type 903 replenishment ship, and an intelligence-gathering ship with the hull number 799, TheDrive reported.

During the activities of the PLA’s warships near Alaska, US Coast Guard cutters ‘Bertholf’ and ‘Kimball’ were also operating in the area, the DVIDS report said.

“The interactions between the US and Chinese vessels were safe and professional, and verbal communications were in accordance with international standards set forth in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium’s Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea”, it further stated in its report.

The DVIDS report seems to have been taken down for reasons best known to US authorities.

Type-055 destroyer Nanchang
China’s Type-055 destroyer, Nanchang. (Wikipedia)

“Assuming the US report is true, the PLA naval flotilla operated in the international waters, which means this could be a normal far-sea training and the Chinese ships did not show any sign of aggression or provocation”, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on September 13.

The flotilla, led by the 10,000 ton-class Type 055 destroyer, displayed the PLA Navy’s rapid development in far-sea capabilities as Chinese warships are expected to train in more distant, unfamiliar waters in the future, Wei added.

He also further stated that the US had sent coast guard ships as it is “wary of the presence of Chinese warships close to the country, particularly advanced destroyers like the Type 055”.

This is not the first time the PLA Navy has sent warships to the region. The PLAN had made a similar passage off Alaska in September 2015. At that time, five warships were involved in the passage, which the US described as “innocent passage” passing within 12 nautical miles of the Aleutian Islands, according to a report published by The Week.