U.S. increases Coast Guard presence in Pacific to counter PRC’s fleet
The U.S. Coast Guard has amplified operations in the Western Pacific as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) coast guard and Chinese civilian fishing militias increasingly assert territorial claims, Bloomberg reported in early June 2019.
A more visible U.S. Coast Guard in the South China Sea and other Pacific waters will help enforce sovereignty of U.S. allies locked in maritime disputes with the PRC, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Cmdr. Vice Adm. Linda Fagan said, according to Bloomberg.
U.S. Coast Guard cutters Bertholf and Stratton will help “law enforcement and capacity-building in the fisheries enforcement realm,” Fagan said, according to Bloomberg.
Indo-Pacific nations have increasingly complained about the PRC’s assertive tactics to lay claim to disputed waterways in the East and South China seas. China has centralized military control over its coast guard, equipping it with larger ships and deputizing Chinese civilian vessels to aid in operations, Bloomberg reported.
“We obviously are aware and have been following the militia and some of the activity,” Fagan said in a telephone news briefing, referring to the presence of the PRC coast guard and fishing militia in contested waterways, according to The Philippine Starnewspaper.
In May 2019, the Bertholf and Philippine Coast Guard vessels trained in the South China Sea and near Scarborough Shoal in disputed waters off the western coast of the Philippines. (Pictured: The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf, left, and the Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Batangas arrive May 15, 2019, in Manila, Philippines, after taking part in a joint exercise off the South China Sea.)
“The United States is a Pacific nation,” Fagan said at the time, according to Stars and Stripesnewspaper. “We have deep and long-standing ties with our partners in the region, and more importantly, we share a strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, governed by a rules-based international system that promotes peace, security, prosperity and sovereignty of all nations.”
The U.S. Coast Guard is also in the process of adding 154-foot ships — with faster response times — in the Pacific, The Washington Postnewspaper reported in April 2019. Three of those fast-response cutters will be based in Hawaii and three in Guam, the paper said.