June 13, 2019
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is monitoring the movements of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine (South China) Sea as part of an effort to help America’s allies in the Pacific enforce sovereignty in contested waters.
Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, USCG Pacific Area Commander, told reporters in a teleconference that “we obviously are aware and have been following the [Chinese] militia and some of the activity.”
For the most part, she said the USCG was deploying training teams to help nations in fisheries enforcement and guard against incursions.
The USCG cutters Stratton and The Bertholf are part of the training initiative, with the former taking over the latter in being deployed to the Western Pacific.
The Bertholf, Fagan noted, had made stops in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.
“I just met with some of the Stratton crew…and I can tell you, they are really looking forward to their upcoming patrol in the region,” she added.
The Bertholf has helped bolster the US presence in the region, recently transiting the disputed Taiwan Strait.
“[I]t’s been a great benefit, I think, all the way around, certainly for us, and we are looking forward to Stratton’s deployment here shortly,” Fagan said.
Washington has been ramping up its naval presence in the Pacific amid China’s continued military expansion and insistence on its territorial claims.
Amid the Duterte administration’s pivot to Beijing at the expense of Washington, the US has said it would come to the Philippines’ aid if tensions turn into an armed conflict.
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