90 Miles From Tyranny : Chinese Arctic Incursion Spooks Lawmakers

Monday, September 20, 2021

Chinese Arctic Incursion Spooks Lawmakers

Chinese vessels patrol waters near Alaska as Beijing increases Arctic aims

China is using the Arctic and seas only miles away from Alaska as a staging area to undermine U.S. national security, top lawmakers and experts say.

Newly released images reveal a fleet of Chinese warships conducting operations in American waters off the coast of Alaska, prompting Coast Guard vessels to track and communicate with the ships. Defense hawks in Congress fear that the maneuvers are a test case. Beijing's saber rattling in Taiwan and contested control of the South China Sea has prompted concern from national security officials, but China's military could soon join with Russia to pose a threat closer to U.S. territory, according to Alex Gray, the former chief of staff for the Trump administration’s national security council and a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

"What really became apparent under President Trump was just how ambitious and challenging Beijing’s aims in the Arctic are," Gray told the Washington Free Beacon. "There is a significant strategic challenge in the Arctic. … It is on the verge of becoming an access-denied environment."

China has declared itself a "near-Arctic nation" and has put force behind that claim to back it up. Beijing is building polar icecutters—heavy-duty ships needed to traverse the Arctic’s waters—at a clip outpacing the United States. China also harbors a scientific base on the Norwegian possession of Svalbard, which Gray warns could soon become a site for military purposes, while also targeting Greenland as a location for other installations. The region also comes with trade benefits: The country has developed a "polar silk road," not unlike its notorious belt-and-road system, to extend its shipping routes to unsuspecting countries in the Arctic.

Pentagon spokesman John Supple told the Free Beacon that the department is aware of Chinese operations off Alaska and that it "remains committed to upholding "a rules-based international order that preserves freedom of the...

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