July 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast Guard will strengthen its presence and test new deployment concepts in the Western Pacific Ocean, its commandant said.
"My vision for the Coast Guard is to expand our permanent presence and effectiveness in the region through expeditionary capabilities, which is why we are doubling down in Oceania," Adm. Karl Schultz said. "In the next month, we'll be deploying Coast Guard assets in a new operating concept to strengthen the community of island nations thorough Operation Aiga -- that's Samoan for 'family.'"
The Coast Guard plans a 30-day deployment of a 225-foot Juniper-class buoy tender, and a fast response cutter, in partnership with island countries in the region. It is an effort to learn if a buoy tender can function as a lead ship to smaller patrol craft.
Three USCG fast response cutters will be stationed in Guam within three years, and a support facility for the ships began construction there last week. Schultz added that the Coast Guard will continue to contribute to security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and East China Sea, noting that its influence is best exerted at a partner-nation level.
He was critical of the Chinese Coast Guard's activities in the region, China's claim of sovereignty over small islands, and its attempt to be a maritime military partner to nations in the Western Pacific.
"There's the Chinese Coast Guard. [It] used to be under civilian authority, it is now through the People's Military Police, a direct report to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] government. You look at the Maritime Militia. I think we are seeing behaviors out of the Chinese Coast Guard, out of the Maritime Militia, that are not consistent with the rule-based order."
In the past year, USCG cutters Bertholf and Stratton have been deployed to the Western Pacific under the support of the 7th Fleet of the U.S. Navy.