Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said it was the first time the United States had seen Chinese navy ships in the Bering Sea.
"We respect the freedom of all nations to operate military vessels in international waters in accordance with international law," Davis said.
China's Defense Ministry, in a short statement said that the ships were in the Bering Sea as part of a routine drill following the completion of exercises with Russia.
"This is a routine arrangement as part of annual plans, and is not aimed at any set country or goal," it said, without providing any other details.
The appearance of the ships is an example of the expanding reach of China's navy and overlapped with a three-day visit by Obama to Alaska as part of his efforts to raise awareness about climate change.
Two U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had identified a Chinese amphibious ship, a replenishment vessel and three surface combatant ships.
None of the ships had been seen acting in an unprofessional or unlawful manner, the officials said, adding that the United States had become aware of their presence in recent days.


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