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MODERATOR:  Greetings from the U.S. Department of State’s Asia Pacific Media Hub.  I would like to welcome journalists to today’s on-the-record briefing with Admiral Linda L. Fagan, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard.  Admiral Fagan will discuss how the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy calls upon the U.S. Coast Guard to focus on advising, training, and building maritime capacity with partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

With that, let’s get started.  Admiral Fagan, I’ll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  All right.  Thank you.  Good afternoon and greetings to all.  I’m really excited to be in Vietnam this afternoon and look forward to sharing some thoughts with each of you about the U.S. Coast Guard’s role in the Indo-Pacific, and more broadly, how coast guard-to-coast guard collaboration helps strengthen maritime governance in the in the region.

The U.S. and many of the Indo-Pacific countries have shared goals, and the Coast Guard works to strengthen relationships with partners throughout the region – shared goals of a free and open Indo-Pacific, based on the rule of law, where nations are able to enforce their own sovereignty, and there is predictability around maritime governance.

Our oceans are global highways that facilitate commerce, provide food to millions of people, and threats to maritime security do not respect borders.  So it’s important that we work together, we collaborate together with our partners to solve shared challenges.

So in – for example, illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing threatens the health of our oceans and the well-being of our coastal communities that rely on fishing for their livelihood, for their food security.  And IUU fishing is often linked to other criminal activity.  The networks that benefit from it are regional or even global.  And our response to the illegal activity of IUU fishing must also be regional or global in its reach.

IUU fishing is theft.  It erodes sovereignty of the nations who are affected by it.  The U.S. Coast Guard welcomes the opportunity to collaborate, and we have people assigned in this region who help provide training and other maritime services that help to ensure that this critical maritime governance work moves forward.

As we reflect on our engagements here in Vietnam this week, strong coast guard-to-coast guard relationships, not just with the Vietnamese Coast Guard but other regional coast guards, are critical to sharpening the rule of law in the region.

We appreciate the participation and leadership of our maritime – or the Vietnam maritime law enforcement partners in multilateral opportunities, such as the Southeast Asia Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative, or SEAMLEI, and the recent commanders’ forum.  This year the United States and Vietnam celebrate our 10th year of comprehensive partnership, and we are pleased with our continued partnership since we normalized relations in 1995.

Our engagement with Vietnam’s coast guard and other maritime services have been a highlight of recent years.  The United States stands ready to partner with Vietnam and other key partners in the region to continue to promote a rules-based international maritime order.

So thank you for your interest in the U.S. Coast Guard’s role in the Indo-Pacific, and I look forward to taking a few questions.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Admiral Fagan.  We will now turn to the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing.

Our first question was submitted in advance, and it comes from Thanh Danh Lê of VnExpress in Vietnam, who asks:  “While China is increasing their use of fishery, survey, and law enforcement ships to violate other countries’ EEZ in the South China Sea – for example, the Xiang Yang Hong 10 survey ship and its escort flotilla’s activities inside the Vietnam EEZ – how may the U.S. Coast Guard’s presence in the West Pacific in cooperation with claimants such as Vietnam address this challenge or benefit the maritime security of the region?”  Over to you, Admiral Fagan.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  Thank you.  Thank you for the first question.  And as I stated in my opening remarks, right, nations have the right and expectation to enforce their own sovereignty.  And many of the problem sets throughout the Indo-Pacific are – it’s maritime in nature and there’s a maritime governance aspect to the challenge.  The U.S. Coast Guard’s role in the region is to partner with other coast guards, allies, in a way that helps those nations create their own capability and capacity, to create presence in their own exclusive economic zones, create expertise and understanding in how to enforce their own sovereignty.

And so whether it’s increased capacity and capability around countering IUU fishing or other activities that erode a country’s sovereignty and ability to protect their own national sovereignty, many of the challenges faced in the region are sort of readymade, constabulary-type activities that coast guards – the U.S. Coast Guard and many others – engage in daily and frequently around the world.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question comes to us from the live queue: Colin Clark at Breaking Defense, based in Australia.  Colin, you should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  I am now unmuted, and my question is:  Has the Coast Guard tried to sail and dock in the Solomon Islands since you and the Brits were not allowed to call?  And what is your understanding of the current U.S. and allied military and coast guard access to Solomon Island ports?

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  Yeah, thanks.  Thanks for the question.  We’d obviously asked for a port call of fueling, a port call that for a number of reasons was not – was not approved.  We continue to operate throughout the region and to seek opportunities for fuel and resupply for our ships that – and each country has an opportunity to either approve that or not, and we will continue to be committed partners in the region.  Thanks, Colin.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question goes to Elvis Chang of NTDAPTV, based in Taiwan.  Elvis asks, “Could you please comment on the significance of the joint Coast Guard exercises in June among the U.S., Japan, and Philippines?  What’s the role of Taiwan’s coast guard in maritime security in the future?”  Over to Admiral Fagan.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  Yeah, we obviously – as a global Coast Guard, we seek opportunities to interoperate both bilaterally and multilaterally with coast guards, and in some cases navies, in the region.  And so in June, those joint exercises were a direct outcome of those engagements coast guard-to-coast guard.

The challenges in the region really do require the kind of partner-to-partner engagement, and are readymade for multilateral opportunities.  And so as U.S. Coast Guard ships are in the region, we seek those opportunities to either subject matter exchanges, passing exercises, or multilateral interoperability exercises like the one conducted in June as a means to increase our – each other’s mutual understanding of capabilities and capacities throughout the maritime realm.  And so the exercise in June is just the most recent of a consistent and ongoing collaboration between coast guards in the region and, frankly, coast guards in other parts of the world as well.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question comes from Ben Felton at Australian Defence Magazine, based in Canberra.  “Admiral Fagan, thank you for making yourself available for this interview.  How is the U.S. Coast Guard integrating with and supporting the Australian Pacific Maritime Security Program through the State Department-funded Pacific Australia Maritime Partnership?  What strengths/skills does the U.S. Coast Guard bring that other partners do not?”  Over to Admiral Fagan.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  Yeah, so we are fully engaged with the ongoing Australian efforts and leadership.  I’ve met with many, many senior Australian representatives, and I think the most interesting part of the question is what is unique about what the U.S. Coast Guard brings as a partner to that Australia Pacific initiative.

And what we bring is our expertise as a law enforcement agency, a maritime agency, and in particular are able to bring those – the professionalism, insight, and understanding to the problem set in a way that is relevant to the country that we are partnering with.  So it can be as simple as helping with outboard engine repair; it could be training small boat (inaudible) and how to operate a small boat or helping a nation develop expertise and capacity in fisheries enforcement to, again, enforce their own sovereignty and capability.

We’re excited about the Australian initiative and are very much engaged in those conversations in a way that’s complementary to the effort and support it.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question goes to Sui-Lee Wee of The New York Times, who’s based in Thailand.  Sui-Lee, you should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you very much.  A spokesman for the Philippine coast guard said recently that there have been ongoing talks with the U.S. Coast Guard about joining the Philippines and joint patrolling the South China Sea.  I just wanted to confirm this with you, and if so, when are we going to see these joint patrols resume?  Thank you.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  So the Philippines coast guard is one of the many partner coast guards in the region that the U.S. Coast Guard engages with, and as we have ships periodically in the region, we seek opportunities to interoperate with not just the Philippine coast guard but other coast guards in the region.

The maritime problem set in the region is readymade for coast guards and for coast guard-to-coast guard engagement, and so we seek to partner across the breadth of coast guards, and many nations in the region operate coast guards as well as navies.  And so, again, as we have ship capacity operating in the region, we will look to our partnered coast guards for opportunities to interoperate and patrol, subject matter exchanges, all of the things that help make us collectively better as coast guards in the maritime governance, maritime domain.

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you.  Our next question came in in advance from Sung-Woong Kang of YTN in South Korea, who asks:  “Does the U.S. Coast Guard have any plan to strengthen preparedness around the Korean Peninsula region against the currently increased threat from North Korea?”  Over to Admiral —

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  As some of the – as I’ve said in a couple of the previous answers, as a global Coast Guard, we continue to operate ships in the region and look to partner with coast guards in the region, and Korea coast guard is an example of one of the coast guards that we do partner and engage with.  And so creating opportunity for subject matter exchanges, passing exercises, the types of things that strengthen a mutual understanding of each other’s operating protocols and capacities are where we focus, and again, we seek those opportunities throughout the region.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question comes to us from Connor Mycroft from The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.  “According to the Asia Mark* transparency index, China dramatically stepped up its own coast guard patrolling in disputed areas in 2022.  Rear Admiral Mike Ryan earlier this year reportedly said the Coast Guard plans to deploy three times more cutters to the Indo-Pacific this year.  Is this a reaction to China’s increased deployments in the South China Sea?  And more broadly, how does China’s own deployment affect the actions of the U.S. Coast Guard in the region, particularly as China’s defense ministry will be releasing an updated security policy soon?”  Over.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  So the United States is a Pacific nation, and the United States Coast Guard has operated throughout the Pacific for a long, long time.  And so the types of cutter visits that we are doing and are committed to doing in the future are consistent with that type of ally, partner capacity building, being a partner of choice throughout the region.

We have moved to consider how we might increase the – our capacity to have ships available, and one of the things we’re in the process of doing is moving a cutter, a Pacific support cutter, towards Honolulu to ensure that we’ve got an increased capacity for that kind of partnership, training, interoperating capacity in the region.  But these have been planned for a while, and we will continue to seek opportunities to partner and engage, particularly with allies and partner coast guards in the region.

MODERATOR:  Our next question comes from Sachiyo Sugita from NHK in Japan, who asks:  “Does the U.S. Coast Guard find more importance in cooperating with the Japan coast guard with the risk of a Taiwan contingency rising in China?  Also, with the tensions rising in the South China Sea, how will the U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard work to strengthen the ties?

Second part:  China coast guard vessels continue to enter the territorial water of Japan near the Senkaku Islands.  How does the U.S. Coast Guard support and help Japan in this issue?  Will there be possibilities of U.S. Coast Guard and Japan coast guard joint patrols or exercises in the area?”  Over.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  We enjoy a long and productive partnership with the Japan coast guard, and we remain committed to that partnership and I said many, many other key coast guard partnerships in the region.  And so in those engagements – and the question is in the context of Japan coast guard, but it could be in the context of many other critical coast guards in the region – seeking opportunity for not just bilateral engagements but multilateral engagements become important for conversations and opportunities to increase capacity and capability and understanding as well as presence in the region.  And so as I’ve indicated, when we have a ship available and operating in the region, we look for opportunities to partner, engage, operate with coast guards, and Japan coast guard is one of those coast guards that, as opportunity presents itself, we seek the opportunity to engage.

The conversations around understanding each other’s capabilities and capacity and being able to interoperate as coast guards become a key way to enhance maritime governance and the rule of law throughout the region, and we as a global Coast Guard, like I say, work to interoperate with any of the coast guards – many of the coast guards in the region.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question comes from the live queue, Phil Heijmans from Bloomberg in Singapore.  Phil, you should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Hi, Admiral Fagan.  Thank you so much for doing this.  Here in Singapore this weekend, we’re expecting defense chiefs from around the world, including the U.S. and China, together for the Shangri-La Dialogue.  I was wondering if in your capacity you are able to characterize the current state of communications, defense to defense, with – between the Coast Guard and the PLA.  And also, do you suppose that a meeting between Secretary Austin and his Chinese counterpart could have any benefits in that broader relations?  Thank you.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  Yeah, so as – it’s probably important to showcase or highlight that the United States Coast Guard, while we are a military service at all times, do not reside within the Department of Defense, and so I’ll leave the defense question for members of the Defense Department.  But the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore highlights the criticality of the kind of multinational, international conversations that are important to occur so that there’s mutual understanding of, again, the problem set, capabilities, capacity, and in the region in particular it is a maritime challenge, a maritime governance challenge.

And so I know the way they structure the discussions in Shangri-La is to help the countries in attendance gain better clarity and understanding of both how – how and where partnerships can be strengthened and how we work collectively to ensure a free and open INDOPACOM and ensure that the rules-based order is maintained throughout the region.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Now, Admiral Fagan, if you have any closing remarks, I’ll turn it back over to you.

ADMIRAL FAGAN:  Okay, thank you.  Thank you, everyone, for participating.  I truly appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about the United States Coast Guard and our role in the Indo-Pacific, and we could just as easily have been talking about other areas of the world where these multifaceted maritime governance problems manifest themselves.  We take our role as a global Coast Guard quite seriously.  We welcome the opportunity to partner, work with allies and partners, and help countries create capacity and capability to enforce their own sovereignty and ensure and uphold the rule of law.  Thank you very much, and I’m looking forward to the rest of my visit here in Vietnam.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Admiral Fagan.  That brings us to the end of our time today.  Thank you for your questions and thank you to Admiral Fagan for joining us.  We will provide a transcript of this briefing as – to participating journalists as soon as it’s available.  We’d also love to hear your feedback, and you can contact us at any time at  Thanks again for your participation, and we hope that you can join us for another briefing soon.

U.S. Department of State

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