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5 Chinese Military Ships Spotted Off Alaska's Coast

In what reportedly is a first, five ships from China's navy have been spotted in the Bering Sea, operating in international waters off the Alaskan coast, Pentagon officials tell The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper reports:

"The officials said they have been aware in recent days that three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel and an amphibious ship were in the vicinity after observing them moving toward the Aleutian Islands, which are split between U.S. and Russian control.

"They said the Chinese ships were still in the area, but declined to specify when the vessels were first spotted or how far they were from the coast of Alaska, where President Barack Obama is winding up a three-day visit."

The U.S. officials also tell the Journal that the military ships aren't seen as behaving in a threatening way.

The reported Chinese activity is seen as the latest sign of China's ambitions to project its influence beyond its territorial waters.

NPR's Tom Bowman offers this analysis:

"China expert David Finkelstein with the Center for Naval Analyses, a think tank that does a lot of work with the Pentagon, has likened China to America in the early 1900s when Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House: a growing power that wants to be considered a player on the world stage. Roosevelt famously sent the U.S. Navy's 'great white fleet' on a worldwide tour to drive home this point."

The sighting also comes on the same day Beijing is hosting a large military parade and celebration to mark the end of World War II. As part of those events, Chinese President Xi Jinping is hosting leaders from a number of neighboring countries.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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