U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro and Japan Coast Guard Patrol Vessel Large Aso, transit together in formation during a maritime engagement in the East China Sea Aug. 25, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard members aboard the Munro deployed to the Western Pacific Ocean to strengthen alliances and partnerships and improve maritime governance and security in the region. (Photo courtesy of Japan Coast Guard)

CIMSEC has an interesting post discussing US and Japan Coast Guards response to China’s Gray Zone activities in the South and East China Seas.

The information on changes to the Japan Coast Guard is valuable, but the author does not seem to be aware of the existing close relationship between the US Navy and Coast Guard.

She advocates that the US Coast Guard follow the Japan Coast Guard model when really it is more a case of Japan Coast Guard organization becoming more like that of US Coast Guard’s organization.

The Japan Coast Guard is not a military service. I have even heard that JCG ships do not use the same fuel as the Japanese Maritime Defense Force. There was a bright line separating the two services.

Her lack of understanding of the USN/USCG relationship is clear. For instance, she states, “RIMPAC has hosted USCG participation on the rare occasion” when in fact Coast Guard participation is the norm. I believe the Coast Guard has participated in every RIMPAC. She also does not seem to be aware of the Coast Guard’s participation in the national intelligence system, that Coast Guard units are frequently trained and inspected by Navy personnel, or that much of the US Coast Guard’s equipment is US Navy standard supplied by the Navy.

There are some interesting bits in post.

“Last year, the Japan-U.S. ACSA (Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement) was applied to the USCG for the first time to enable a JMSDF supply shop to replenish a USCG patrol vessel.”

Clearly the Japan Coast Guard, which has more cutters than the US Coast Guard (but far fewer aircraft), is getting a lot of attention.

Since 2012, the JCG budget and personnel have seen annual increases and the Kishida administration intends to more than double the budget by 2027.

The Indian Coast Guard when through a similar period of rapid growth after the Mumbai terrorist attack.

Finally, with the Kishida administration’s plan to raise defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by FY27, budgetary calculations will now include expenditures on Japan’s Coast Guard as a defense budget line item. Unlike NATO countries, Japan has historically not classified JCG spending as a defense expenditure. While this reform may seem entirely bureaucratic in nature, Japan is the textbook example of how seemingly esoteric organizational reforms can have remarkable impacts on foreign and security policy. By including JCG spending in the defense budget, the government is opening itself up to criticism and pressure to strengthen the coast guard’s role in Japan’s national security and national defense strategies.

Making the Japan Coast Guard’s budget part of the Defense budget may ultimately tie it more closely to the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (Navy) than the US Coast Guard is tied to the US Navy, though they have a very long way to go to reach even that degree of cooperation.

Japan has been a remarkable partner in maintaining the rules based order in Asia. They have helped equip the coast guards of the Philippines and Vietnam. They are also committed to helping the smaller island nations of Oceania.

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