“THREE ROUNDS OF COERCION IN PHILIPPINE WATERS” –CSIS

China CG Cutter 5203

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative brings a report of Chinese tracking and harassing vessels conducting legitimate activities in the Philippine’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on three occasions.

There are some things worth noting about these three encounters:

  • In the first the Taiwanese Coast Guard was successful in allowing the research vessel to complete its task. In the second encounter, the Philippines appears to have surrendered preemtively while the Chinese vessel came no closer than 0,9 miles. In the third, the two Philippine vessels were successfully intimidated and turned away by China Coast Guard vessels supported by maritime militia vessels.
  • While Chinese vessels approached these vessels and came with 100 meters in the third incident, there was no indication that they attempted to ram or block movement, though blocking did appear to be the ultimate intent in the third incident. Chinese vessels have intentionally rammed in the past, but I cannot recall a Chinese government vessel ramming another government’s vessel. Chinese maritime militia have employed this tactic.
  • In the first encounter the Taiwanese Coast Guard used some of their largest ships as escorts. 5001 is more than 5000 tons full load, larger than the Bertholf class ships (4,500 tons full load). Taiwan Coast Guard’s CG129 is also relatively large at 120 meters (394 ft). It is nominally 3,000 tons, but probably over 4,000 tons full load. China Coast Guard (CCG) 5203 is reportedly 102 meters (335 ft) in length and 14 meters of beam.  It is probably around 3,000 tons full load.
  • The two Philippine Coast Guard cutters mentioned, BRP Capones and BRP Cape Engaño were both Parola class patrol boats, built in Japan and delivered in 2017 and 2018 respectiely. These 44 meter/146 ft vessels are just a bit smaller and slower than the Webber class. They were much smaller than the CCG vessels.
  • Only the Chinese employed vessels were armed with medium caliber naval guns. I was unable to find specs or photographs of CCG 5303 or 5304 but at least CCG 5203 was armed with a modern 3″ gun. The Taiwanese vessels were armed with auto-cannon of up to 40mm. The Philippine CG vessels were armed with nothing larger than .50 cal.
  • Taiwanese and Philippine CG vessels appear to have had a speed advantage, but the CCG had a speed advantage over the vessels being escorted. In the third incident any speed advantage was also largely negated by the larger number of Chinese vessels.

It should be clear that if the Philippines intends to operate in their EEZ, in areas included in the “Nine Dash Line,” they should expect the Chinese will confront them. If they intend to operate there, they need to decide to either support the effort strongly or operate not at all. Being chased out repeatedly strengthens China’s position.

Should the Philippines decide to operate in the disputed waters, it does have some advantages at least for operations of short duration. While the China CG is much larger, the Philippines has the advantage of proximity. Far from their bases, the Chinese cannot reinforce quickly. The Philippines can surge large numbers of units the short distance from their bases quickly.

The Philippines has been pushed around. Perhaps it is time to push back. Not an escalation, but a reponse in kind.

A coordinated sweep of Chinese fishing vessels fishing illegally should be possible.

To deter shouldering, size is important, so the Philippine CG should include their largest ships.

To deter the Chinese from resorting to weapons, Philippine law enforcement vesssels should be supported by Philippine Navy vessels. It would not hurt if Philippine light attack aircraft were airborne.

It would also help if vessels of other nations, including the US, were on scene to witness the encounter.

BRP Capones in Davao Gulf. Philippine Information Agency.

Thanks to Paul for bringing this to my attention.

“US, Japan coast guards formally expand cooperation” –PAC AREA News Release / “Royal Navy and US Coast Guard to Forge Closer Bonds”

Ships from the U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard conducted exercises near the Ogasawara Islands of Japan, Feb. 21, 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball and Japan Coast Guard Ship Akitsushima, two of the respective services’ newest and most capable vessels, operated alongside helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles to practice interdicting foreign vessels operating illegally inside Japanese waters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball/Released)

The Coast Guard has been busy increasing its international visibility. Below is a news release concerning increased cooperation with the Japanese Coast Guard that came out yesterday. Today, I see a SeaWaves report, also dated yesterday that,

“The Royal Navy and US Coast Guard have vowed to work more closely to fight crime and protect the planet. The two services already combine to stop drugs traffickers in the Caribbean and Middle East, assist each other with operations in the polar regions, run exchange programs for sailors and frequently work and train side-by-side around the globe.”

The new relationship with the Royal Navy includes expanded personnel postings that began back in 2014.

There are also plans to build on already successful exchange programs, which allows USCG engineers to work with the Royal Navy but will soon also allow pilots and aircrew to do the same. (emphasis applied–Chuck)

Perhaps we are not too far from exercising something like my proposed “Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific” with a US Coast Guard Cutter, a Japanese Coast Guard Cutter, and a Royal Navy River Class OPV working with navies and coast guards of SE Asia to protect their EEZ. Perhaps the Indian Coast Guard will join as well.

News Release

May 19, 2022
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area

US, Japan coast guards formally expand cooperation

US, Japan coast guards formally expand cooperation US, Japan coast guards formally expand cooperation

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

TOKYO — The United States and Japan coast guards formally expanded cooperative agreements and established a new perpetual operation during a ceremony Wednesday in Tokyo.

Vice Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, and Vice Adm. Yoshio Seguchi, Japan Coast Guard vice commandant for operations, represented their respective services during the historic document signing ceremony and celebration at Japan Coast Guard Headquarters.

Although a memorandum of cooperation between the sea services has existed since 2010, strengthened relationships, increasing bilateral engagements and continued focus on maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific necessitated expansion of the memorandum.

The new operation’s name, SAPPHIRE, is an acronym for Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule of law based Engagement, and it honors the gem regarded as an emblem of integrity and affection found throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Operation Sapphire encompasses all the annual interactions between the Japan and U.S. coast guards, with the goal of increasing interactions over time.

To formalize the expanded cooperation, annexes were added to the existing memorandum of cooperation outlining Operation Sapphire to include standard operating procedures for combined operations, training and capacity building, and information sharing.

“We rely on our partners, allies, and like-minded nations to achieve our shared missions,” said McAllister. “As evidenced by this agreement, our relationship with the Japan Coast Guard is stronger than ever, and I am looking forward to many more decades of partnership and collaborative operations in the Indo-Pacific.”

“We will conduct smooth cooperation in the fields of joint operation, capacity building and information sharing by this agreement” said Seguchi. “Sapphire embodies the rule-of-law based engagement between the coast guards, and we will expand the principle of Free and Open Indo-Pacific to other nations.”

 

“Indonesia spearheading regional cooperation in South China Sea” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Indonesian Maritime Security Agency vessel KN Tanjung Datu, left, sails alongside U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton during joint exercises in the Singapore Strait in August 2019. IMAGE CREDIT: PO1 LEVI READ, USCG

The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum reports,

Indonesia is reaching out to its South China Sea neighbors to foster harmony on maritime sovereignty issues and enhance cooperation among regional coast guards, analysts say. The nation engaged closely with Vietnam in late 2021 and plans to add five countries to the collaborative effort in 2022.

It appears Indonesia is working with its SE Asian neighbors to resolve their bilateral maritime territorial disputes based on UNCLOS and develop multi-lateral agreement.

This would allow the ASEAN nations to present a united front, to push back against China’s expansive claims. It might even lead to something like my proposed Combined Maritime Security Task Force.