“China Coast Guard to be allowed to use force in case of territorial infringement” –People’s Liberation Army Daily

This Chinese People’s Liberation Army Daily post concerning use of deadly force, linked here, may be particularly interesting for its call out of the US Coast Guard.

Law enforcement on land, sea and in airspace under its own jurisdiction, with the use of weapons on necessary occasions, are the rights granted to sovereign states by international law. The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) also stipulates that lethal weapons can be used when enforcing the law in waters under its own jurisdiction. For the US Coast Guard (USCG), the use of force is even more common, and it is even planning to apply long-arm jurisdiction to China.

Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant of the USCG, claimed to strengthen deployment in the Asia-Pacific region and participate in security patrols in the waters surrounding China in response to Chinese maritime militia’s declaration of sovereignty in the South China Sea in April last year. Robert O’Brien, US National Security Advisor, announced on October 24 that the USCG would deploy Enhanced Response Cutters in the Western Pacific. . Without providing any evidence, he accused Chinese fishing boats of illegal fishing and claimed that the sovereignty of the United States and its neighbors in the Pacific had thus been threatened.

If they should choose to employ force against one of our cutter in their claimed “Nine Dash Line,” it is likely they would attempt to get several units in at very close range before opening fire, as they did in this engagement.

Chinese depiction of the fighting Battle of Paracels Islands

Next time we send a cutter into this area, it might be a good idea to have a squad of Marines along armed with shoulder fired missile or rocket launchers.

Might also be a good idea to provide a bit of ballistic protection (and here) for our .50 cal. gun crews. Not too difficult because you can buy it on the GSA catalog.

Most China Coast Guard Cutters are not as well armed or as fast as the Bertholfs, but there are exceptions. In all likelihood they would be more interested in causing casualties and chasing us off, than actually sinking a cutter. This is more likely to serve their purpose without getting themselves in a war. Not that I think such an attack would go unanswered, but they, or a mid-level commander, might be foolish enough to think they could get away with it. Still probably better not to have a lone cutter doing “Freedom of Navigation Operations,” although air cover might be sufficient. Really I would like to see an international repudiation of their claims in the form of an multi-national demonstration.

Combinations of CCG cutters with weapons larger than 14.5mm machine guns could be extremely dangerous at close range. Some of those are shown below.

The China CG version of the Type 056 Corvette

 

China Coast Guard Cutters Converted  from Type 053H2G frigates

“Stuck in the middle with you: Resourcing the Coast Guard for global competition” –Brookings

Brookings contends that the Coast Guard, not the Navy, is the proper instrument to counter Chinese maritime “gray zone” operations. But it needs more money, something in the range of $200-500M more per year, a 1.7-4.2% budget increase.

Simply put, for a relatively meager influx of operations and maintenance funds, at least in DoD terms (where the unit cost of a single Fordclass aircraft carrier is more than the Coast Guard’s entire annual budget), the Coast Guard could provide substantially more services in the Pacific. Enhanced funding in the range of $200-$500 million would translate to improved readiness and availability of its National Security Cutter (NSC) fleet and other Coast Guard assets capable of operating deep into the Pacific theater. Importantly, this funding might actually save money for DoD. Using the Coast Guard to conduct joint military exercises and patrols, capacity building, and international training is far cheaper than using a higher-end Navy ship to perform the same missions. (emphasis applied–Chuck)

It goes on to suggest that the PATFORSWA model be replicated in the Western Pacific and suggests,

As a corollary, as the Coast Guard plans for its Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition, it should consider whether it could optimize a sub-class of these vessels for these types of defense-flavored operations in the Pacific.

There is also a suggestion of overseas basing,

Finally, it may also be time for the Coast Guard to consider independent foreign basing options for the first time in recent memory, perhaps with America’s close ally and “Five Eyes” partner, Australia. A Coast Guard detachment in Australia would not only provide for an additional Pacific-centric staging area, besides existing Coast Guard locations in Hawaii and Guam, but would also assist with Coast Guard strategic icebreaking operations directed towards Antarctica, which is itself becoming more and more relevant in the era of great power competition.

Once we have our fleet of icebreakers, we might want to base one in Australia or New Zealand, but Guam still looks like a good place for our patrol ships, even if we might include OPCs in addition to the three Webber class FRCs currently planned. Patrolling our Western Pacific EEZ and that of friendly Micronesian states, we might want to replenish at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, where Australia is developing a joint use base. At least for short term deployments, our ships and aircraft might also exploit the newly improved base at Wake Island 1,501 miles (2,416 kilometers) east of Guam, 2,298 miles (3,698 kilometers) west of Honolulu.

“Breaking the Ice: High Stakes in the High North” –RealClearDefense

Real Clear Defense offers a suggestion of how US policy regarding the Arctic should be shaped.

While some decry an “icebreaker gap”…, the real problem is that U.S. policy in the Arctic lacks direction. The United States needs a better approach – a new cooperative arrangement with Russia to protect the environment, maintain peace in the region, and box-out China.

The Coast Guard does need more icebreakers. It does not need nearly as many as Russia. Our thinking needs to consider our access to Antarctica, which, however quiet it may be now, may not always be that way.

North Korea’s Ghost Fishing Fleet –It is worse than I thought

Sixty fishermen aboard this North Korean boat were rescued after it collided with a Japanese patrol vessel and sank off Japan’s Noto Peninsula in October 2019.

The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum reports on the extent of the disaster that has befallen North Korean fishermen since their government has sold fishing rights to the PRC.

“The so-called ghost ships come ashore on Japan’s coastline and increasingly along Russia’s coast, according to a mid-September 2020 report by Lenta.ru, a Russian-language online newspaper.

“Japanese authorities report that more than 500 ghost boats have landed on the nation’s coast in the past five years, with 158 in 2019, Lenta.ru reported. The unidentified bodies found aboard are buried in unmarked graves in Japanese and Russian coastal towns, the online report said.”

“Japan Coast Guard protects fishing boat from Chinese vessels near Senkaku islands” –Stars and Stripes

The Senkaku islands in the East China Sea are administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan. CABINET SECRETARIAT OF JAPAN

Stars and Stripes reports the latest of an increasingly frequent series of incursions by the Chinese in an attempt to intimidate Japanese interests in the Senkaku islands.

The report identified the Chinese vessels only as “naval vessels.”

Uotsuri-shima / Diaoyu Dao (Blue, west end and nearly south end, 25°44′33″N 123°28′17″E at Mount Narahara), Kuba-shima / Huangwei Yu (Yellow, north end, 25°55′24″N 123°40′51″E at Mount Chitose), Taishō-tō / Chiwei Yu (Red, east end, 25°55′21″N 124°33′36″E at the peek) referenced on Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and distances referenced on Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Every distances of the map show coast to coast, but distances of the coast of Okinawa Island and Naha City, and the coast of Ishigaki-Island and Ishigaki City are quite near on the map. Author: Jackopoid, from Wikipedia.

“10,000 Tons Patrol Vessel ‘Haixun’ Launched For China’s Maritime Safety Administration” –Naval News

Artist impression of 10,000 tons class patrol vessel Haixun

Naval News reports the launch of a 10.700 ton cutter (more than twice the size of a National Security Cutter) for the Chinese Maritime Safety Agency. We knew this was coming.

“The 165-meter maritime security patrol vessel has a displacement of 10,700 tonnes and a speed of over 25 knots (46 km / h). It can travel more than 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 kilometers) at an economical speed of 16 knots (30 km / h) and make trips of more than 90 days.”

This is not the China Coast Guard (CCG). That is a separate agency and they already have built ships that may be larger than this.

Like the China Coast Guard ships, these may have a wartime role as fast attack transports. Unlike the CCG ships, these do not appear to have significant armament.

Speed of construction is significant. “Construction of the vessel began in May 2019…and is set to enter service next year.”

“US Bans Marine Scientific Research in its Waters Without Consent” –Global Security

Global Security reports,

“The United States has updated its policy on marine scientific research, requiring foreign ships to request permission before entering U.S. waters. It is the latest step by Washington to align U.S. law with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as it seeks to champion a rules-based order despite criticism from China for not ratifying the convention.”

This is expressly about the EEZ, not the territorial sea. What I find really remarkable here is,

According to the U.S. Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, marine scientific research only includes “those activities undertaken in the ocean to expand knowledge of the marine environment and its processes.”

Hydrographic surveys – including those for military purposes — and resource exploration, which China’s research fleet is known for, are instead considered “marine data collection,” and thus are not affected under the updated policy.

OK, I can understand wanting to keep the door open for our hydrographic research in potential adversaries’ EEZ to inform submarine and anti-submarine operations, but EEZs are about “economic” pursuits. I would think that would include resource exploration.

Several of the South East Asian nations have objected to Chinese resource exploration in their EEZ, based on their interpretation of UNCLOS. Our statement seems to give cover for what most countries see as Chinese misbehavior.

The EEZ is supposed to allow the coastal state to regulate economic activity in adjacent waters. Why would we object to “those activities undertaken in the ocean to expand knowledge of the marine environment and its processes.” 

“RELEASE OF THE CG ILLEGAL, UNREPORTED, AND UNREGULATED FISHING STRATEGIC OUTLOOK” DCO

The Deputy Commandant for Operations (DCO) has released the “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Strategic Outlook.” You can see the 40 page strategy document here. There is a short summary here.

The strategy promotes three “lines of effort.”

  • Promote Targeted, Effective, Intelligence-Driven Enforcement Operations.
  • Counter Predatory and Irresponsible State Behavior.
  • Expand Multilateral Fisheries Enforcement Cooperation.

A press release is quoted below. Make no mistake, this is a very big deal, and it is pointed directly at China’s predatory practices that are impoverishing coastal states dependent on fisheries.

united states coast guard

R 171209 SEP 20
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//DCO//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS //N16000//
ALCOAST 347/20
COMDTNOTE 16000
SUBJ:  RELEASE OF THE CG ILLEGAL, UNREPORTED, AND UNREGULATED FISHING STRATEGIC OUTLOOK
1. Today the Commandant promulgated the Coast Guard’s Illegal, Unreported,
and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Strategic Outlook, which emphasizes IUU fishing as a
pervasive security threat to U.S. national interests. IUU fishing, if left unchecked,
will result in deterioration of fragile coastal States and increased tension among
foreign-fishing nations threatening geo-political stability around the world.
Tackling IUU fishing requires experienced, capable, and trusted leadership. The U.S.
Coast Guard is a well-respected global leader in maritime safety and security; able to
lead a unified force to cement positive change and promote enhanced maritime governance.
This Strategic Outlook outlines the Service’s vision to strengthen global maritime
security, regional stability, and economic prosperity with the following Lines of Effort:
   a. LOE 1 Promote Targeted, Effective, Intelligence-Driven Enforcement Operations.
The U.S. Coast Guard will lead global efforts to detect and deter IUU fishing on the high
seas and in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of partner nations. Through the innovative
use of intelligence, technology, data analysis, and information sharing, we will identify,
target, and interdict illicit actors in the maritime domain in order to disrupt corrupt
cycles of influence that enable illegal operations.
   b. LOE 2 Counter Predatory and Irresponsible State Behavior. The U.S. Coast Guard will
prioritize operations and engagement in areas where our efforts are most critical to
demonstrate U.S. commitment and model responsible behavior. The U.S. Coast Guard will
shine a light on the activities of those who violate international rules-based order,
exposing and holding accountable the most egregious predatory actors.
   c. LOE 3 Expand Multilateral Fisheries Enforcement Cooperation. The U.S. Coast Guard
will build and maintain lasting cooperation with key partners to empower regional resource
conservation and management. Working with U.S. and international partners, the U.S. Coast
Guard will assist at-risk coastal States and like-minded nations to develop and maintain
their own robust counter-IUU fishing capacity, bolstering their governance and enforcement
systems and affirming the United States as a preferred partner. Through targeted, persistent,
and collaborative efforts, we will sustain and strengthen connections with partner nations
supporting international oceans governance.
2. Each line of effort depends on Unity of Effort, Partnership, Investment in the Future,
and Innovation to succeed.
3. Under this IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook, the U.S. Coast Guard will apply our broad
authorities, capabilities, capacities, and partnerships to be a global leader in the fight
against IUU fishing. Working with partners in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), the Department of State (DOS), the Department of Defense (DOD),
and others, the U.S. Coast Guard will uphold a whole-of-government effort to advance
national interests in the maritime domain and promote economic prosperity. Through enhanced
engagement with like-minded nations and key maritime stakeholders, the U.S. Coast Guard
is ready to spearhead the global fight against IUU fishing.
4. More information and copies of the strategy can be found at: www.uscg.mil/iuufishing/.
5. POCs: CDR James Binniker at (202) 372-2187 or James.A.Binniker@uscg.mil.
6. VADM Scott A. Buschman, Deputy Commandant for Operations, sends.
7. Internet release is authorized.

 

“U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands” –PAC AREA

Below is a PAC AREA news release, reproduced in full. To put it into context, a huge fleet of Chinese F/Vs has been operating just outside the Ecuadorian EEZ surrounding the Galapagos Islands. Apparently there was enough concern that some might be engaged in Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that PAC AREA sent a ship to back Ecuadorian enforcement. It is about 540 nautical miles between the Galapagos Islands and mainland Ecuador. For Bertholf, this is not a great deviation from the Pacific drug transit zones. The Ecuadorian cutter seen in the photographs is a Damen Stan Patrol 5009, 50 meters in length and 9 meters in beam. It has a “axe bow.” It is one of two ships of the class ordered in 2014. For such a small vessel, it has unusual endurance, 30 days, and can accommodate up to 32 people. Max speed is 23 knots.  

united states coast guard

News Release

Sept. 3, 2020
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area
Contact: Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs
D11-DG-M-PACAREA-PA@uscg.mil
Pacific Area online newsroom

U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands

VIDEO: U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands

 PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands  PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands  PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

ALAMEDA, Calif. – In coordination with the Ecuadorian navy, the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) recently completed a joint patrol to detect and deter potential Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands.

From Aug. 25-29, Bertholf patrolled over 3,000 square nautical miles of Ecuadorian and international waters and conducted joint operations with the Ecuadorian naval vessel LAE Isla San Cristobal (LG-30), providing persistent presence and surveillance of fishing activity throughout the region.

The joint operation highlights a significant Coast Guard partnership with a South American country to detect, deter and ensure adherence to international maritime norms for fishing.

Information gathered during the operation was shared with Ecuador to strengthen future compliance efforts and gain greater shared awareness of potential IUU fishing activity.

“It was a unique opportunity to sail together with the Ecuadorian navy, and we were impressed by their professionalism and dedication to the fight against illegal fishing,” said Capt. Brian Anderson, Bertholf’s commanding officer.  “This joint operation demonstrates the effectiveness and importance of our international partnerships.”

IUU fishing is a global security, economic, and environmental threat that undermines national sovereignty and weakens the international rules-based order. 

Up to 27 million tons of fish are caught illegally each year, which accounts for 20-30% of total global annual catch. Economic losses from IUU fishing are estimated to be as much as $23.5 billion per year.

“The United States remains committed to the international effort to combat IUU fishing and the illegal exploitation of the ocean’s fish stocks,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, the Pacific Area commander.  “The U.S. Coast Guard will continue to safeguard our national interests and build lasting international partnerships that promote the rule of law and sovereignty for all nations.”

“Cutting Coast Guard funds threatens our security, at home and in the Pacific” –The Hill

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (left) moves in formation with Philippine coast guard vessels Batangas (center) and Kalanggaman during an exercise on May 14. U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer John Masson

The Hill argues for increased Coast Guard presence in the Pacific including greater interaction with the nations of the Western Pacific.

After explaining why China is a greater threat than Germany, Japan, or the Soviet Union ever were, the author, Seth Cropsey, explains:

“The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is uniquely situated to act as a bridge between U.S. combat forces and their allied counterparts precisely because of its dual political-legal role. Its engagement in answering grey zone challenges is also a helpful encouragement to the maritime services’ cooperation that allows each service to perfect its unique skills.”

He argues for the 12th NSC.

“As it stands, the Coast Guard’s long-range cutters have been cut from ten in the Pacific to only six (actually we still have six NSCs and two WHECs–Chuck). If Congress does not fund the 12th National Security Cutter, it will undermine the Coast Guard’s mission in the Western Pacific and weaken U.S. security.”

Most importantly, as we have done several times here, he calls for a reevaluation of the services needs and recurrent long term planning.

Even more broadly, U.S. policymakers – within the Coast Guard, the Armed Forces, and the Pentagon – must consider the Coast Guard’s strategic role. The USCG has not produced a fleet plan, termed the “Fleet Mix Analysis,” since 2004. Even in 2008 and 2012, when it revisited the document, it concluded that its fleet could only meet three-fifths of its missions. In 2004, Chinese fighter aircraft seldom conducted night operations, North Korea had not yet tested a nuclear weapon, and the U.S. had toppled Iraq’s Saddam Hussein just a year before; Hamas was a small but noted Palestinian terrorist organization, while al-Qaeda in Iraq was still consolidating power.

After 16 years, any service’s missions and equipment must change as it adapts to new threats; the same is true for the Coast Guard. A robust force review is in order, potentially modeled off the Navy’s 30-year plan which will generate a new fleet capable of meeting the demands of great-power competition, especially in the Asia-Pacific.