MANILA, Philippines — Washington has been aware of Beijing’s activities in the disputed South China Sea as the US Coast Guard has been keeping tabs on them.
Vice Admiral Linda Fagan, commander of the US Coast Guard Pacific Area, said ship operations have been ongoing in the area over the past months.
“We obviously are aware and have been following the militia and some of the activity,” Fagan said in a telephone press briefing, referring to the presence of the Chinese Coast Guard and fishing militia in the contested waterway.
Fagan mentioned the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum, a multilateral forum where coast guards from other countrues discuss areas of shared interest.
This forum includes the US, Canada, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
“Forums like the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum provide that avenue for conversations of like-minded Coast Guards with regard to, again, enforcement of illegal fisheries enforcement activity and otherwise,” Fagan said.
The US Coast Guard will continue its operations in the South China Sea when USCGC Stratton will takes the place of USCGC Bertholf in a few days.
The US Coast Guard commander stressed that its operations in the South China Sea are consistent with international standards and rules.
“The international rules-based system has been the approach that we’re using,” Fagan said.
Lay off Pag-asa, Duterte asks China
In April, President Rodrigo Duterte asked China to lay off Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island following reports that hundreds of Chinese vessels are stationed around the island.
The Chinese vessels, believed to be militia disguised as fishing boats, have been deployed in the area as early as January.
The Department of Foreign Affairs called out Beijing’s deployment of vessels in the West Philippine Sea, pointing out that the Philippines has sovereignty and sovereign rights over the region.
“Accordingly, the presence of Chinese vessels near and around Pag-asa and other maritime features in the (Kalayaan Island Group) is illegal,” the DFA said in April.