U.S. Coast Guard Continues To Expand Presence In Western Pacific

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JS OUMI conducted joint training with the USCGC Munro cutter (WMSL-755) in the East China Sea on August 26, 2021. JMSDF Photo

KUALA LUMPUR – The United States Coast Guard’s status as military service coupled with its law enforcement roles enables it to effectively contribute to the military and maritime law enforcement requirements of the Indo-Pacific region, according to the commander of US Coast Guard units operating in the region.

As a U.S. military service, the Coast Guard can seamlessly integrate into defense operations alongside the U.S. Navy and other U.S. military services, and is fully interoperable with U.S. allies, vice -Admiral Michael McAllister, Commander of the Pacific Area and Commander of Coast Guard Defense. Force West, said during a September 3 media call.

But at the same time, its law enforcement and regulatory roles align well with those of the Pacific Region’s navies and coast guards, and the Coast Guard’s missions match the needs of countries in the Indo-Pacific.

McAllister highlighted the ongoing deployment of the USCGC Munro (WMSL-755) as part of the U.S. 7th Fleet, in which it has conducted engagements with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Japanese Coast Guard, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

“We conducted joint patrols, a search and rescue exercise and small boat operations with the Japanese Coast Guard. to apply exclusive economic zones and so on, ”McCallister said, adding that the recent commitment between Munro and the JMSDF was one of the cooperative patrols coinciding with other operations.

He added that while Munro is deployed, conducts operations as directed by the 7th Fleet, and is part of the integrated naval force, as articulated in the US Maritime Strategy for the Three Services.

“But I would say it is not a duplication or a replication of the capability of the US Navy. We make unique engagements with navies, coast guards and maritime security officers across the region, ”he said.

From August 24 to 25, Munro participated in a two-day cooperative deployment with the Japanese Coast Guard patrol vessel JCG Aso (PL41) in the East China Sea, where it carried out crew exchanges; two-ship communication, training, maneuver and navigation exercises; joint and cooperative maritime presence; maritime law enforcement training and exercises; and several variations of large vessel and small vessel operations.

August 26 Munro conducted both a refueling and training exercise called ILEX21-3 with JMSDF JS replenishment lubricator Oumi (AOE426) in the East China Sea.

“This is the first time that a JMSDF supply vessel has resupplied a United States Coast Guard patrol vessel and the Japan-United States ACSA (Acquisition and Cross-Service Agreement) has been applied to the Guard. coastal US, so I think we have further improved interoperability between JMSDF and USCG ”, Captain Yoshifuku Toshihiko, the commanding officer of Oumi, said in a JMSDF press release.

McAllister said the US Coast Guard views Japan as one of its most valuable partnerships. “And that’s both from a maritime perspective through the Maritime Defense Force and missions that align very well with the Coast Guard to the Japanese Coast Guard,” he said, adding that the Coast Guard receive strong support for the North Pacific Guard’s enforcement initiative both operationally and logistical capacity.

An MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 performs touch and go exercises aboard USCGC Munro (WMSL-755) Coast Guard Legend Class U.S. Navy during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020 on August 25, 2020. U.S. Navy photo

Munro participated in at-sea engagements with the Philippines on August 31 in the Western Philippine Sea, where he conducted bilateral operations, professional exchanges, search and rescue and communications exercises, small boat operations, multi-vessel maneuvers and a maritime domain awareness exercises.

McAllister played down the location of the exercise, which was near the disputed Scarborough bench, saying it was not intended to send a message to China. He added that one of the elements the Coast Guard is working on is building the capacity and capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard and maritime law enforcement agencies to conduct sustained operations in waters beyond. their coasts.

“And so, I’m not going to say that the activity near the Scarborough Shoals was necessarily meant to send a message; but when you think of the Philippines’ claim to their waters, that opportunity to take them further from shore, to do maritime outreach and – where appropriate – to enforce laws and treaties within their exclusive economic zone. , it just requires that we get them farther from shore, ”McAlliser said.

He also noted that the US Coast Guard is cooperating with China in areas of mutual interest between the two countries, although there is not much cooperative activity in the South China Sea. But the two countries continue to cooperate in the North Pacific, especially with regard to high seas fishing and the application of various treaties and conventions to which the United States and China are signatories.

“And we’ve had this relationship for decades now, and it has been very successful. We have largely eliminated the use of driftnets on the high seas, for example, on the high seas, which has had a very significant impact on many species of migratory fish, ”he said.

During a media call in July this year, the Commander of the United States Coast Guard, Karl Schultz, said that the National Security Coast Guard USCGC Bertholf (WMSL750) was deploying to the North Pacific and would cooperate as part of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum comprised of Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States. Schultz also said the Coast Guard was still in the process of renegotiating a memorandum of understanding with China on cavaliers, law enforcement agencies that operate from warships, which expired more than a year.

USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750), left, moves in formation with Philippine Coast Guard ships Batangas, center, and Kalanggaman during an exercise May 14, 2019. US Coast Guard

Asked about new Chinese regulations for ships entering Chinese territorial waters – which require ships to provide notice and their maritime authorities with detailed information about the ship, including its current position, next port of call and l estimated time of arrival – McAllister said based on media reports, the requirements for innocent passage vessels to the South China Sea appear to run directly against international agreements and standards. “If our reading is correct, these are of great concern, and that is because they begin to lay the groundwork for instability and potential conflict if these are implemented,” he said.

McAllister also provided an update on Coast Guard operations in the Pacific Islands since the Coast Guard’s rapid response cutters commissioned in Guam in July. Risk of myrtle (WPC 1139), Olivier Henri (WPC 1140) and Frédéric Hatch (WPC 1143), and the re-designation of the Guam Coast Guard Sector to the Micronesia Guam Coast Guard Force Sector. Since then, the Coast Guard has launched the most recent wave of what it calls Operation Blue Pacific, which is a multi-mission, multi-location effort in coordination with key partners among Pacific island nations to include the use of various coast guards to detect, deter and suppress illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

“We do this often through agreements with the shipriders; we are fighting against transnational shipments of illegal drugs. We do port security assessments; and we provide what we call maritime domain knowledge through long range aircraft sorties, ”he said.

During a media call in July, Schultz said operations in that region would be improved with the replacement of the HC-130Hs operating at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii, as the new HC-130Js have a longer range, more endurance and better sensor capabilities. They can also fly directly to Guam without refueling, unlike the HC-130H. Advanced deployments to Guam would be tied to specific tasks and missions rather than a regular, rotating presence, as has been the case in the past.

McAllister also noted the impact of COVID-19 on Coast Guard operations and engagement, saying it has limited face-to-face and human engagement that the service and its partners have found valuable. Mitigation efforts through virtual engagements were used to close this gap.

“But time will tell if we have been effective in this area. I would say that there certainly is – from my perspective as a regional commander, I look forward to the time when the travel restrictions start to loosen and I can look people in the eye and reform into sort of those essential partnerships, ”he said.

McAllister added that COVID is also making it difficult for ships to be launched and kept at sea.

“Preparing a crew for the sea – including quarantines, vaccinations and other measures to ensure they are protected – has been difficult,” he said. “And then staying at sea for months to carry out our missions has cost our crews dearly. And so, we hope that our partnerships will allow us to get out of COVID as quickly as possible. “


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