The April, 2015 issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings has published an article which can be read on line, examining the Chinese Coast Guard and how it is using its blue water fleet, the largest fleet of cutters in the World (80 ships of over 1,000 tons and still growing).
It is worth a read. The author tracks the changing tactics employed by Chinese Law Enforcement vessels, and he sees a progression of increasingly aggressive actions.
CIMSEC continues their “Non-Navy” discussion with “Fisheries Crime: Bridging the Conceptual Gap and Practical Response.”
They address more than just Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing. They talk about problems highlighted in a study conducted by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on transnational criminal activities in the fishing industry :
•Fishers trafficked for the purpose of forced labor on board fishing vessels are severely abused;
•There is frequency of child trafficking in the fishing industry;
•Transnational organized criminal groups are engaged in marine living resource crimes in relation to high value, low volume species such as abalone;
•Some transnational fishing operators launder illegally caught fish through transshipments at sea and fraudulent catch documentation;
•Fishing licensing and control system is vulnerable to corruption;
•Fishing vessels are used for the purpose of smuggling of migrants, illicit traffic in drugs (primarily cocaine), illicit traffic in weapons, and acts of terrorism; and
•Fishers are often recruited by organized criminal groups due to their skills and knowledge of the sea and are seldom masterminds behind organized criminal activities involving the fishing industry or fishing vessels.
The Coast Guard is most likely to encounter these problems in the EEZ in the Western Pacific, including the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument that is expected to expanded and in the EEZs of friendly island nations that rely on the US to assist with enforcement. Unfortunately assets for enforcement in these areas have been extremely limited.
We have already talked about China’s difficulties with her neighbors Japan and the Philippines. Now we have a report of a confrontation with Indonesia. Apparently Indonesia had chosen to keep this quiet, but the Chinese have chosen to brag about it.
The Indonesian vessel involved was reportedly a Todak class, which is a German Lurssen “PB-57” design, a bit larger than the FRC at 447 tons fl, 58.1 meters long and 7.6 meters of beam, armed with a Bofors 57mm (like that on the NSC), a 40mm and two 20mm. Clearly if it had come to a fight, the Indonesian vessel would have enjoyed an advantage, at least until Chinese reinforcements arrived.
China is showing a complete disregard for the provisions of the UNCLOS treaty to which they are a party.
Making an enemy of Indonesia is a particularly bad idea for China, in that Indonesia potentially controls all the major straits through which the vast majority of Chinese trade must pass and all the alternatives are also in the hands of nations China seems intent on alienating.
The American Interests reports on the apparently increasing friction between parties in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel, now that oil and gas have been found offshore.
Credit for Chart: “China Orders Foreign Fishing Vessels Out of Most of the South China Sea,” The Washington Free Beacon
China is again pushing for a “new norm” that would make the South China Sea essentially Chinese sovereign territory. In clear violation of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, the Province of Hainan has declared that, as of Jan. 1, all foreign vessels must get their permission to fish in approximately two thirds of the South China Sea including waters that are clearly within the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia, an area reportedly five times the size of the state of Texas.
In addition to the report credited below the illustration, here is a Wall Street Journal Report and Reuters reports the diplomatic sparing between the US and China.
Their likely instrument in this push is the newly organized Chinese Coast Guard. Naval War College professor James R. Holmes, offers some thoughts on “The Return of China’s Small Stick Diplomacy in South China Sea.”
BreakingDefense has a post on the inadequacies of Guam’s infrastructure for support of additional Military presence. I’m referencing it here because, I think in the long run we are going to need to put more assets in Guam, to look after the huge Western Pacific EEZ. Ultimately I think it would be a good idea to base two or three Offshore Patrol Cutters there. Right now the Coast Guard has a 225 foot buoy tender and two 110s. The Navy supplies SAR helicopter assets in lieu of CG air assets.
To see how much of our EEZ is in the Western Pacific, look here, and keep in mind that Mercator projections are deceptive, making areas in the high lattitudes looks disproportionately large. The US has the Largest EEZ in the World and 85% of it is in PACAREA.
Late addition: Incidentally, it is about 3300 nautical miles from Guam to Hawaii, long way. The HC-130Js can fly that far unrefueled, if we had any in the Pacific, but the older “H” models at CGAS Barbers Point can’t. Even the “J”s would not have a lot of excess for doing searches flying between Oahu and Andersen AFB. It is almost 600 miles further from Kodiak. Maybe we ought to have some fixed wing there too.
The Diplomat is reporting that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has acknowledged that they have begun to operate in the US EEZ off Guam and Hawaii (and presumably other US territory in the Western Pacific). This is actually seen as a positive step in that, by taking this step, China is recognizing that US Navy operations inside the Chinese EEZ are not illegal.
Still this means Coast Guard assets may encounter PLAN units, and as yet there is no counterpart to the INSEA (Incidents at Sea) agreement we had with the Soviet Union to minimize the chances for a misunderstanding.
A more aggressive, adventuresome, and far reaching PLAN might also be seen as a reason to consider reanimating the ASW mission in the Coast Guard.
Informationdissemination has a short report on the ongoing expansion of the fleets of China’s five law enforcement agencies. Several things stand out. This expansion is massive. The charts in the report may be difficult to read, but it is clear they are building at a furious rate while also taking in former Navy platforms. It is also clear that while some are very large, these are relatively simple and because of the low cost of ship building in China, very inexpensive ships.
These agencies still have relatively few aircraft so they will remain ship rich, aircraft poor.
China has apparently found their maritime law enforcement agencies useful in asserting control over disputed areas.
For reference while the US EEZ is 11,351,000 km2, China’s internationally recognized EEZ is only 877,019 km2 and they claim another approximately 3,000,000km2.
Add another to the list of places where national interests clash over claims to offshore areas. Spain and Britain have had a long running dispute over Gibraltar and the surrounding waters. Despite progress toward “European Unity,” they don’t seem to be getting along very well.
May 3, a Spanish patrol vessel, the Atalaya (just a bit larger than a 210, photo of a sistership top left), entered waters claimed by Britain and ordered all anchored merchant shipping to leave. The authorities in Gibraltar sent out HMS Scimitar (illustrated to the right by her sister ship) to enforce their position.
None of the merchant ships weighed anchor and after about an hour and a half the Atalaya left. “Strongly worded note to follow.”
Rather sad to see “HMS Scimitar” as a 52 foot boat when in a previous generation it was one of a class of 67 destroyers.
Over the last couple of years we have heard repeatedly that the area of the Indian Ocean (IO), where pirates operate is huge, too large to be patrolled effectively by the rather large international force already there. We might take the opportunity to point out that the total area is less than the size of the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) the Coast Guard is tasked to patrol.