The Tianlangxing, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy surveillance ship, passed by Japan on July 2, and stayed off the Kodiak coast during the July 11th test of a U.S. missile defense system. (Courtesy Japanese Ministry of Defense)

The Tianlangxing, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy surveillance ship, passed by Japan on July 2, and stayed off the Kodiak coast during the July 11th test of a U.S. missile defense system. (Courtesy Japanese Ministry of Defense)

Chinese spy ship cruises off Alaska

A Chinese surveillance ship was in the Gulf of Alaska last week when the U.S. Missile Defense Agency tested a defense system that China opposes.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command confirmed the People’s Liberation Army-Navy ship Tianlangxing was about 100 miles off Kodiak early last week.

CNN first reported the ship’s presence on July 13.

The ship was in international waters, and the Chinese government has made no official statement about the ship’s mission. MDA had previously announced the THAAD test would take place in July, but the exact date and time had not been announced.

The Tianlangxing was tracked by the Japanese Ministry of Defense, which monitored it as it sailed between the Japanese Home Islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in the first week of July.

The ship’s voyage is the first by the Chinese Navy into Alaska’s “Exclusive Economic Zone” since 2015, when a naval task force sailed through the Aleutians. The EEZ, recognized by international law, extends 200 miles from shore.

The United States has made no diplomatic protest; the U.S. government has long advocated for the right to sail intelligence-gathering ships within the EEZs of other nations. In an analysis published by the Asia-Pacific magazine The Diplomat, editor Ankit Panda suggested the Chinese ship’s presence wasn’t unusual.

In January, the Chinese state newspaper China Daily published information about the class of ships including the Tianlangxing (whose name, translated, refers to the star Sirius).

“The (ship) is capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance on multiple and different targets,” China Daily reported, quoting a report that added, “the ship is so sophisticated that only a few countries, such as the United States and Russia, are capable of developing it.”

Last week, the Missile Defense Agency used Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport Complex to test the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAADs) against an incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile fired by an aircraft north of Hawaii.

[Alaska’s missile defense test is a success]

The test was the most difficult performed by THAAD, which had never before been used against an IRBM. According to MDA, the test was a success, and video provided by the agency appeared to show the IRBM exploding as a THAAD interceptor struck it. The interception took place over the Gulf of Alaska.

The results and video could not be independently confirmed.

The THAAD test came one week after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile with sufficient range to reach Alaska. THAAD has never been tested against an ICBM, but missile-interceptors based at Fort Greely, near Delta Junction, have been tested against ICBMs with mixed results.

The THAAD system is intended for use against missiles that have shorter ranges than the ICBM tested by North Korea on July 4. North Korea has several varieties of short-range missiles, and THAAD is likely to be deployed in Korea and Japan to offset the danger of North Korean missiles there.

South Korea already has two THAAD launchers, but their deployment has been contested by China, which views the THAAD’s accompanying radar system as a threat.

Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.

More in News

Meals slated for children in Juneau over Thanksgiving weekend are arrayed on tables at Thunder Mountain High School on Nov. 25, 2020. (Courtesy photo / Luke Adams)
Font of plenty: JSD readies meals for Thanksgiving holiday

Nearly three tons of food got distributed for the long weekend.

Travelers arrive at the Juneau International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, made up only about half of what the airport normally sees in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Centennial Hall, seen here on Tuesday, Nov. 24, is being used by the City and Borough of Juneau as an emergency facility during the coronavirus pandemic and will not host the annual Public Market which has taken place every weekend after Thanksgiving since 1983. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Want to buy Alaskan? Closed by pandemic, Public Market goes virtual

Normally throngs of Juneauites would be lined up around the block…

To capture the unexpected action- the unrepeatable moment- it should be instinctive.  In order to build the story you have to shoot the adjective.  In this photo the bald eagle had waited patiently for the right moment to pounce on an unsuspecting vole… the unexpected.  The best way to accomplish this is to master the art of the most difficult subject to photograph– birds in flight.  In order to do this you must learn your gear; it must become part of your muscle memory so you can concentrate on the story you are witnessing.  Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 150-600mm, shot at 600mm, ISO AUTO (1250), F6.3, 1/3200, Handheld. (Courtesy Photo / Heather Holt)
Focal Point: Great photos are just waiting in the wings

Learn to shoot the verb (and the bird).

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Construction of the new Glory Hall, above, is going smoothly, said executive director Mariya Lovishchuk on Nov. 24, 2020. (Courtesy photo / Thor Lindstam)
Building a brighter future: New Glory Hall reaches skyward

The structure is rapidly progressing, shouldering aside inclement weather.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Tuesday, Nov. 24

The most recent state and local numbers.

A sign seen near Twin Lakes on Sept. 17 encourages residents to wear cloth face coverings while in public. Health officials are asking Alaskans for help with contact tracing. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Health officials seek help with virus notification

Recent surge created a contact tracing backlog.

Most Read