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US Coast Guard to expand Western Pacific presence to curb Chinese aggression

The US Coast Guard cutter Bertholf
Source: Global Nation

MANILA, Philippines — The US Coast Guard will expand its presence to the Asia Pacific in the coming months amid China’s growing influence in the region.

Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the US Coast Guard, said in a telephone conference with reporters that they are “doubling down” in Oceania in the coming months as part of a “new operating concept.”

“My vision for the Coast Guard is to expand our permanent presence and effectiveness in the region through expeditionary capability. Which is why we are doubling down in Oceania,” he said.

“In the next month, we will be deploying Coast Guard assets in a new operating concept to strengthen the community of island nations through Operation AIGA, that’s Samoan for ‘family’,” he added. 

There will be an initial 30-day deployment of multi-mission cutters, including a 225-foot buoy tender and one of their brand-new fast response cutters. 

Three of the US Coast Guard’s fast response cutters will be deployed in Guam in the next two to three years.“The addition of the Fast Response Cutters will significantly increase Coast Guard presence throughout the region.  Our increased capability and capacity will allow for more frequent and longer patrols to protect the Exclusive Economic Zone from illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and the threats that those activities bring, as well as increasing drug trafficking threats to the region,” Schultz said.

In the past year, US Coast Guard vessels Bertholf and Stratton have been deployed to the Western Pacific, under the support of US Navy’s 7th Fleet.

While the US Coast Guard’s presence is outnumbered by a large number of Chinese Coast Guard ships in the region, Schultz said they are working to be the “partner of choice in the region” by offering “transparent engagement and partnership” amid “coercive and antagonistic behavior.”