The US has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world (roughly 12,000,000 sq.km.), and roughly a fourth of it is in the Pacific, far south of Alaska, and west of Hawaii, in fact much more of it than is in the Arctic. While warming Arctic waters have been attracting a lot of press, if not much substantial action, the Central and Western Pacific EEZ has received relatively little attention, maybe because they don’t have any Congressional representation. I don’t have good figures on this, but looking at this chart of the US EEZ, its apparent that if Coast Guard assets were distributed on the basis of size of the EEZ, about 80% of the Coast Guard would be based in the Pacific.
Each little island out there, if it is more than 400 nautical miles from the nearest land, is surrounded by at least 125,664 square miles (431,000 sq.km) of territorial sea, contiguous zone, EEZ, and perhaps some additional continental shelf.
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, has called for greater cooperation between the US and New Zealand. Specifically he is calling for more USCG activity in the South Pacific to stop illegal fishing and drug smuggling, “I believe the time has come for New Zealand, the US and Australia to dramatically step up our collective surveillance activity in the region to provide a comprehensive assault on illegal activity…”
Apparently, talks are in progress now.
A lot of old CG icebreaker sailors have pleasant memories of Christchurch, New Zealand. Relations with New Zealand have been cool for decades because of a ban on nuclear weapons in New Zealand waters and a refusal by the US to “confirm or deny” the presence of nuclear weapons on our ships (I think once we refused to answer if the Eagle had nuclear weapons on board and she was denied permission to enter a New Zealand port).
That may be changing, as in Costa Rica, it looks like while the US Navy may not be welcome in New Zealand, the Coast Guard may be.
In addition to Guam, US territories and possessions in the Pacific include:
- American Samoa
- Wake Island
- Palmyra Atoll
- Midway Islands
- Johnston Atoll
- Baker Island
- Howland Island
- Jarvis Island
- Kingman Reef
The other nation in the area with substantial assets and interests is France.