National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said on Friday that the US is deploying Coast Guard ships to the western Pacific to counter China. O’Brien accused China of harassing vessels in the region, threatening sovereignty, and illegally fishing.
O’Brien said the Coast Guard “is strategically homeporting significantly enhanced Fast Response Cutters … in the western Pacific.” The cutters will conduct “maritime security missions” with US partners in the region who have limited offshore capabilities.
O’Brien said the Coast Guard plans to evaluate the possibility of basing cutters in American Samoa. “If the survey is favorable, the United States could further expand its presence in the South Pacific,” he said.
O’Brien described China’s activity in the region as “destabilizing and malign.” The advisor described the US as a “Pacific power” that promotes a “free and open Indo-Pacific region where like-minded nations uphold the international rules-based order.”
It’s not clear how far west the cutters will go, but O’Brien’s language suggests the South China Sea, where the US has involved itself in a maritime dispute between Beijing and several Southeast Asian Countries. The US regularly sails warships into the waters to counter China’s claims.
Earlier this week, the US, Japan, and Australia held joint naval exercises in the South China Sea. The week before, the US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan entered the disputed waters for the third time this year.