'Western Pacific': U.S. messaging in the South China Sea includes recommitment to Taiwan - SupChina

‘Western Pacific’: U.S. messaging in the South China Sea includes recommitment to Taiwan

Trump poses with U.S. Air Force Academy graduates with Taiwan’s flag in the background.

Washington, D.C., is signaling its commitment to the Western Pacific — a favored umbrella term for any part of the Pacific Ocean that China claims as its own — more and more frequently, and in a number of ways. Here are two that made the news today:

U.S. Marines release photo of Taiwanese major general at Indo-Pacific military talks

The U.S. Pacific Marine Corps released photos showing Taiwanese Major General Liu Erh-jung (劉爾榮 Liú Ěrróng) at the Pacific Amphibious Leaders Symposium in Hawaii last week (see above). His presence was, according to the South China Morning Post, “the latest in a series of moves that Taipei said demonstrated closer relations with Washington [which] include Taiwan being on a list of ‘countries’ in a U.S. Department of Defence report on its Indo-Pacific strategy released on June 1.”

The White House also recently posted a photo to Instagram of Donald Trump posing with U.S. Air Force Academy graduates with Taiwan’s flag in the background.

U.S. Coast Guard cutters in South China Sea

Bloomberg reports that the “U.S. Coast Guard is touting increased operations in the Western Pacific, thousands of miles from American shores, as China’s coast guard and civilian fishing militias increasingly assert the country’s territorial claims.”

  • The “418-foot national security cutter with 170 crew members” USCGC Bertholf and the similarly sized USCGC Stratton are being deployed with the Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan.
  • “A presence in the South China Sea and elsewhere will help enforce the sovereignty of partner nations in the disputed waters, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander Vice Admiral Linda Fagan told a conference call,” according to Bloomberg.
  • This is not the first time the U.S. Coast Guard has been active in these waters: The Bertholf joined a U.S. Navy transit through the Taiwan Strait in March, and in May, “the U.S. Coast Guard staged a joint exercise with two Philippine vessels in Chinese-claimed waters, reportedly sailing past two Chinese ships in the process.”
  • Local news media in the PhilippinesVietnamMalaysia, and Singapore have picked up the story.

FLASHPOINT TO WATCH FOR

The Bloomberg article notes, “This is the time of year when China enforces a fishing plan off its shores,” which often results in confrontations.

Vice Admiral Linda Fagan said the Coast Guard vessels will help “law enforcement and capacity-building in the fisheries enforcement realm.”

Watch this space over the summer fishing season.

Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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