US Coast Guard Touts Expanded Role in Pacific, Says China Gets ‘Excited’ During Training With Taiwan

© US Air Force/Staff Sgt AJ HyattThe United States Coast Guard Cutter James, the second National Security Cutter for the East Coast, arrived Aug. 28, 2015 in its homeport in Charleston, S.C.
The United States Coast Guard Cutter James, the second National Security Cutter for the East Coast, arrived Aug. 28, 2015 in its homeport in Charleston, S.C. - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.01.2022
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While the protection of America’s shoreline remains the US Coast Guard’s primary mission, the deployment of its vessels and personnel to Asia, Europe and the Middle East has led to countless memes and endless cajoling about what it’s doing operating thousands of miles from its home waters.
The US Coast Guard is taking on a more assertive role against China in the Pacific theatre, and doing missions which the Navy is unable to or not geared toward, Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has said.
“What we do, it’s not big in numbers, but it’s I think, pretty significant in contribution. We get access. We can go places,” Schultz said at a recent Navy League event. His comments were quoted by Business Insider.
As an example, the commandant pointed to the recent deployment by the USCGC Munro, a 418-foot Legend-class cutter, which completed a three-month-plus deployment in the Indo-Pacific last October, drilling with the Australian Navy, transiting through the Taiwan Strait (to China’s irritation), and joining Taiwanese forces for training. During its Pacific deployment, the Munro was subordinated to the US 7th Fleet in Japan.
“The Chinese [get] pretty excited when the Coast Guard’s over there training with the Taiwanese,” Schultz said. “There are places that move the needle a little bit.”
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Technically, the US military and the Coast Guard are prohibited from stationing troops on Taiwanese territory or conducting exercises with the island’s military under the China-US agreements reached in the 1970s and early 1980s. Last year, it was revealed that "small numbers" of US troops have been illegally stationed on Taiwan since at least 2008, with over 600 personnel visiting the island over the past two years alone. Exacerbated China-US tensions over Taiwan led to talks between Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, after which Biden pledged “not…to change” US policy toward the island.

'Globalized' Coast Guard

The US Coast Guard maintains dozens of sector commands across the contiguous United States, as well as Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. However, unlike the coastal defence forces of other nations, the Americans also maintain three operational commands abroad – including the USCG Far East Activities command at Yokota Air Base, Japan, USCG Activities Europe, based in Schinnen, the Netherlands, and Patrol Forces Southwest Asia based in Manama, Bahrain.
Late last year, USCG Pacific Area commander Vice Adm Michael McAllister said the Coast Guard was responsible for missions that were “different” from the Navy’s, noting that the service serves to ‘complement’ the Navy’s defence capacity, including by engaging in policing against “illegal” Chinese fishing activities.
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“At the end of the day, we try to model a type of behaviour that keeps commerce open, peacefully resolves disputes, protects valuable resources, and counters illicit activities,” McAllister said.
The Coast Guard’s broad global reach has been criticized by other nations, and by some US politicians, who have expressed concerns about what American “coast guard” ships were doing “guarding” the coasts of other countries, and fears about overreach.
Last April, after CNN reported on Iranian “harassment” of a US Coast Guard vessel in the Persian Gulf, witty commentators quickly asked what the ship was doing in the Middle East, nearly 7,000 miles from US shores.
Representative Anthony Brown (D) told The Insider that he was anxious about efforts to further integrate the Coast Guard with the Navy, noting that this may impact its primary mission.
“I remain concerned that the Coast Guard is being asked to support the Department of Defence in ways that are outside of its defence-readiness mission and stretching its already thing resources even thinner,” he said.
Brown promised to “continue to fight for the funding our services need” in Congress, but stressed that “that funding must also be managed correctly and strategically.”
The Coast Guard is presently in the middle of what Commandant Schultz has called the “largest recapitalization programme since the Second World War” to replace old ships. However, some officials in Washington want more cash – on top of the $13.1 billion provided for fiscal year 2022. Last year, Trump-era assistant secretary of defence for Indo-Pacific security affairs Randall Schriver suggested that “if we’re going to get serious with the Coast Guard as a tool for international engagement, we have to invest a lot more so that that tool is available.”
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