WASHINGTON (AP) — Five Chinese warships have moved into the Bering Sea near Alaska after participating in a naval exercise with Russia, but officials said they don't view the ships as a threat as President Barack Obama travels in northern Alaska near the Arctic Circle.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Defense Department "positively identified a number of Chinese naval vessels in that region, but based on their analysis they have not detected any sort of threat or threatening activities."
The U.S. military has been aware of ships and has been tracking their movements for days as they moved through international waters. Earnest said the intent of the ships presence "is still unclear." He was speaking aboard Air Force One as Obama flew near the Bering Sea.
Obama was in Alaska to speak about climate change.
Navy Cdr. Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, said this is the first time that the U.S. has seen ships from the People's Liberation Army Navy in the Bering Sea.
"We respect the freedom of all nations to operate military vessels in international waters in accordance with international law," Urban said.
There are three surface warfare ships, one amphibious assault ship and one supply vessel.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Dillingham, Alaska, contributed to this report.