More of the new normal

The "Poyang Lake" AOE provides maritime comprehensive supply to the "Ningbo" guided missile frigate (L) on December 6, 2012.(Xinhua/Ju Zhenhua)

The “Poyang Lake” AOE provides maritime comprehensive supply to the “Ningbo” guided missile frigate (L) on December 6, 2012.(Xinhua/Ju Zhenhua)

Reuters reports that for the first time in modern history five ships of the Peoples Liberation Army Navy have been spotted in the Bearing Sea off Alaska. They include an amphibious ship, a replenishment vessel and three surface combatant ships.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the Pentagon is “monitoring movements of the ships but that the intent is still unclear beyond … that they are not detecting any sort of threatening activities.”

On their way to a blue water fleet that includes several aircraft carriers, 26 destroyers, 52 frigates, 20 corvettes, 85 missile armed patrol boats, 56 amphibious vessels, 42 mine warfare ships and nearly 500 auxiliary craft, the STP notes:

Since 2010 Chinese warships have been achieving a lot of firsts. For example in 2013 Chinese warships visiting Chile and Argentina passed through the Strait of Magellan for the first time in history. At the same time a Chinese amphibious ship (a 19,000 ton LPD) with marines on board visited Syria. This was the first time a Chinese amphibious ship had visited the Mediterranean. China has three of these LPDs and another was recently launched. These LPDs have also been serving as part of the international anti-piracy task force off Somalia. Chinese warships were briefly seen off the African coast centuries ago, but in the last decade they have been their regularly operating off the Somali coast with the international anti-piracy patrol. That’s the first time Chinese warships have participated in this kind of long-term international effort.

Closer to home in 2013 Chinese warships were, for the first time, seen moving through the La Perouse Straits, which separates the Russian island of Sakhalin and the Japanese northernmost home island of Hokkaido. Chinese warships later, for the first time moved completely around the Japanese islands. In 2014 came more firsts. In February Chinese warships were seen moving through the Sunda Strait (between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra) for the first time.

More firsts are expected this year and next.

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