MANILA, Philippines – The United States Coast Guard is monitoring intrusions by the Chinese militia in the South China Sea, an official said on Tuesday, June 11.
“We have been following the militia and some of the activity,” US Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander Vice Admiral Linda Fagan told reporters in a teleconference, calling from their headquarters in Alameda, California.
This comes after an increased frequency of sightings of Chinese militia off the coast of islands belonging to the Philippines, a longtime ally of the US. (READ: China deploys militia as Philippines builds on Pag-asa Island)
Filipino fishermen have reported harassment during their encounters with Chinese ships. Just on Monday, the Philippine Coast Guard spotted a Chinese warship and paramilitary vessels in Scarborough Shoal.
According to Fagan, the operations of the US Coast Guard has been “consistent” in the decades that it has patrolled the Asia Pacific region. She noted, however, that their present deployment is a case of a “return to engagement.”
The US Coast Guard, Fagan emphasized, has two natures: it operates with the US Armed Forces, but at the same time, it also enforces US and international laws.
“We are very much interested in engaging with partner nations and using our authorities and capacity-building in a way that is helpful and beneficial to particularly some of the small island nations who struggle with their own EEZ (exclusive economic zone) enforcement,” Fagan said.
One of those vulnerable countries is the Philippines, which, despite the landmark Hague ruling declaring China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea as invalid, has not been able to secure its islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Fagan said that they could help struggling countries by sending “a small team” to train the local coast patrollers.
The goal, she said, is to teach how to “guard against fishings incursions or other law enforcement capacity, to bolster the capacity and the authority and the ability to generate their own, protect their own sovereignty.”