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U.S. commandant: Coast Guard could play broader role in Asia-Pacific

Paul Zukunft called on the incoming Trump administration to expand operations.

By Elizabeth Shim
U.S. commandant: Coast Guard could play broader role in Asia-Pacific
U.S. Coast Guard commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said on Tuesday that the Coast Guard can play a greater role in the East and South China Seas. File Photo by Earl S. Cryer/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast Guard commandant says the United States could play a bigger role in the Asia-Pacific region.

Adm. Paul Zukunft, who was speaking at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, asked the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump to enable the Coast Guard to play a broader role beyond U.S. borders, Voice of America reported.

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Placing the Coast Guard at the forefront of operations in disputed zones, and without creating a tense state of affairs, is possible, Zukunft said, citing the example of Chinese maritime police.

The white ships of the Coast Guard can also play a more diplomatic role, in areas like the East and South China Seas, than U.S. naval warships, the commandant said, adding his fleet could help maintain peace and stability in areas where countries like Vietnam and Indonesia could use support in the enforcement of maritime law, if the incoming Trump administration chooses to pursue such measures.

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Zukunft said relations between the U.S. Coast Guard and China's maritime police are very close, and that during joint operations personnel often work together on each other's ships.

China has been deploying its coast guard, rather than its naval force, in areas of the South China Sea, in order to fend off criticism from its neighbors.

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Closer to home, Zukunft said the Coast Guard has been intercepting more Cuban migrants at sea, according to Military.com

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"What I suspect led to the initial spike was when we raised the flag in Havana and reopened our embassy and talked about normalizing relations," Zukunft said.

Trump has made tough-minded statements about Cuba and it is unclear whether U.S.-Cuba relations will stay on their current course after he assumes office, according to the report.

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