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Moderator: Hello, and greetings from Washington, D.C. Welcome to our participants dialing in for this on-the-record briefing with Admiral Schultz, Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant with the United States Coast Guard. Again, my name is Aaron Applegate. I’m with the Department of State in the Office of International Media Engagement, and I’ll be your moderator in collaboration with the State Department’s Asia-Pacific Media Hub in Manila.
Today Admiral Schultz will discuss the U.S. Coast Guard’s increased footprint in the Indo-Pacific region, which includes collaborating with partners to support the free flow of commerce and address the impacts of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the region. He will begin with some opening remarks and then we’ll take your questions.
I’ll now turn it over to Admiral Schultz for his opening remarks. Sir, the floor is yours.
Admiral Schultz: Hey, thank you, Aaron. I very much appreciate the opportunity to be doing the hub call today. So let me start with the reason for why I’m here in Guam today with some of my staff. Back in 2019, I announced plans to add what we called three fast response cutters, or new patrol craft, to the U.S. Territory of Guam to significantly increase our U.S. presence in the region, the region here where America’s day begins.
Today we commissioned those three fast response cutters, the Myrtle Hazard, the Oliver Henry, and the Frederick Hatch, here in their new home port in Apra Harbor, Guam. These cutters are considerably more capable than the legacy 110-foot Island-class patrol boats they replaced, and it was actually two patrol boats here before. We’ve added three here. A little bit of the differences: These are 44-foot-long around the waterline, eight additional crew, a hundred tons additional tonnage, and seakeeping capability. So tremendously capable ships for the region.
They add increased reach as we continue to do partner capacity-building as we protect our sovereign U.S. interests in the region, including our territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, American Samoa. And when you reflect on the both geographic and economic importance of the region, this is an area that encompasses 1.3 million square miles, or 43 percent of what we call our U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. And really, more than half of the world’s commerce and half of the world’s population is over here in the Indo-Pacific region.
These fast response cutters will do all kinds of missions, myriad missions. They’ll detect, deter, and suppress illegal, unregulated – unreported, unregulated fishing. They’ll counter other maritime transnational shipments of illicit narcotics or other products. They’ll promote the rules-based maritime governance. They’ll safeguard a free and open Indo-Pacific, and really help achieve national security objectives in the Micronesia region.
Further, our highly trained, professional crews of these cutters will call on Pacific Island country ports. They’ll embark host nation shipriders, and those engagements further strengthen our relationships and bolster the partnerships we have throughout Oceania.
And these cutters are here to stay. They’re permanently based in Apra Harbor. Today we also redesignated what was historically called Coast Guard Sector Guam – we have now redesignated as Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Sector Guam. And now that demonstrates our enduring commitment to really a broader whole-of-government approach with these increasingly capable platforms in an area of the globe that’s increasingly important from a geostrategic standpoint.
Our part in this solution set really focuses on partnerships and collaboration. And when folks I think external to us in the region reflect on the Coast Guard, I think we’re a maritime organization with centuries of continuous experience in maritime security, marine safety, and environmental stewardship. And that experience, when it’s coupled with our broad authorities, our quite capable platforms, and humans that operate those platforms, and really the international relationships that we are able to tap into and leverage, that allows us to advance maritime security. It best positions us as an organization to promote what I alluded to earlier as acceptable maritime behavior amongst regional maritime stakeholders.
And just really closing out, I’ll note that the Coast Guard, the United States Coast Guard, has been a Pacific Coast Guard for more than a century and a half. Our Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Sector Guam, the new designation for the unit here in Guam, recognizes our Coast Guard lasting service and our enduring presence in supporting not only our U.S. territories, but the Micronesian countries of Palau, the FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, the RMI, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Nauru. So our increased footprint in this region really reflects our commitment to the region.
So Aaron, let me stop at that and turn it over to the questions of the audience, if I could.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. We’ll now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. For our first question, can we please, Operator, go to line 18, Jaeduk Seo, Radio Free Asia, Seoul, Korea.
Question: Thank you. This is Jaeduk Seo from Radio Free Asia. I have a question about the Coast Guard’s operation to support the implementation about UN sanctions against North Korea. Recently, it was reported that some North Korean ships, which are suspected of engaging in illegal coal trade, are staying in Chinese waters. I know that the Coast Guard’s cutters have been dispatched to combat North Koreans’ maritime sanctions evasion activity. Can you explain more about Coast Guard’s role in this region with illegal – enforcing sanctions to North Korea? And I’m wondering – I’m also wondering if there are any cutters currently dispatched. Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah. Thank you, sir, for the question. So the Coast Guard, when we operate – and when you talk about sanctions enforcement, UN sanctions enforcement against North Korean-flagged ships, generally that’s a larger Coast Guard cutter. We have done some of that work historically back in 2019, employing one of our national security cutters – actually, two national security cutters were in the region for about five months each.
When we deploy a ship to the region, our Coast Guard cutter is working under the Pacific Fleet, and really under the Indo-Pacific commander. So the type of work we do in the region, that is set by our Department of Defense colleagues, who request the Coast Guard to provide forces. So we have done North Korean sanctions enforcement work in the past. We could potentially do some of that.
In terms of what are we doing today, I generally don’t comment on current operations just because of the operational sensitivities there. But I think very much if there’s an ask from the Pacific Fleet commander through the Indo-Pacific Commander, we could potentially do that work. I mean, these are vessels that were engaged in the movement, typically, of coal and illicit petroleum fuel products. And I suspect there’s a chance some of that work could be in the Coast Guard’s future in the Indo-Pacific region.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Now, Operator, if we could go to line 16, Melo Acuna with the Asia Pacific Daily in the Philippines, please.
Question: Thank you very much. Good morning, Admiral Karl Schultz. I just want to find out your assessment of the prevailing conditions in the South China Sea. And have you noticed any decrease or increase in pirates in the crimes in the South China Sea and Singapore Strait? What will the U.S. Coast Guard do? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah, thanks for the question. So again, as a service chief, my job is to man, train, and equip Coast Guard forces, a little bit different than the Department of Defense combat commanders. I’m also the senior operational commander. However, as I mentioned in my answer to the last question, when we push forces into the Indo-Pacific region, they’re generally at the ask or the behest of the Department of Defense geographic combat commander. That’s Admiral Aquilino at INDOPACOM.
What we’ve seen is – this is an observation; I would defer to our DOD INDOPACOM shipmates to really sum up the threats in the region. Personal observation, my fourth year in the job as commandant, we’ve seen regions that were small spits of sand in the ocean that now have been built up and they’re turned into islands, and they have military capabilities and defensive systems. I mean, there’s a – they’re sort of the delta or the gap between the words and the behaviors that we see from visual observation.
But I think the South China Sea, East China Sea, what the Coast Guard as a contributor to the U.S. naval Department of Defense total force layout, what we really ascribe to is free and open waters in the Indo-Pacific for the free flow of commerce, for – we look for responsible adherence to the rules-based order, modern maritime governance. I think that’s one thing. As I assess the region, I see a lot of regional naval forces that look an awful lot like the Coast Guard. You see a lot of white-hulled ships. They replicate our horizontal – or our about 45-degree angled stripe on the bow. They call themself a coast guard. I think what we bring to the region is we model a type of behavior that we think is important to keep commerce open, to peacefully resolve disputed areas, working through the international criminal courts and those type of things.
So my assessment of the area is we need to focus collectively on free and open oceans there. And I think when there’s disputed areas, we should work through the established mechanisms for resolving them. Coercive, antagonistic regional actors that are running down fishing boats in disputed areas, I’m not sure that looks like the modern maritime governance rules-based order that the United States Coast Guard would like to champion in the region as we contribute forces and sailors to the work.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Operator, if we could go to line 47, Steven Myers, the New York Times, based in South Korea.
Question: Hello, Admiral. Thank you for doing this. I wonder if you could give us a little bit of your assessment on the extent of the problem you mentioned with illegal and unregulated fishing, both in the American EEZs, but also more broadly across the South Pacific, and how much of that is going to be the mission of these new forces you’ve deployed. Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah. Thanks for the question. And honestly, one of the things that I’ve seen in my – I’m about 75 percent through my tour, and I think one of the real tipping points in my thinking was back in the fall of ‘18 up in Newport, Rhode Island, the International Seapower Symposium. And we – typically we’re talking about threats from VEOs and chemicals and weapons of mass destruction, drug smuggling. A lot of the world’s navies and maritime forces really wanted to talk about IUU fishing.
And we’ve been an organization that’s done international fishing, domestic fishing patrols, for years. But I think it really crystallized in my mind that this was an evolving global threat of high consequence. And while we’ve had a role for 150 years, we decided to really dial into that. Back in the fall, we issued a 10-year strategic outlook that talks about an increased leadership role for the Coast Guard. We don’t have the capacity to be the ocean’s police across the globe here with Coast Guard cutters everywhere. But we look to work with likeminded partners, academia, nongovernmental interests, Pew Research, Stimson Center, Global Fishing Watch, and start to paint the picture.
When you think about the economy, the fish economy, about somewhere north of 25 to 33 percent of all the fish in the global fish marketplace are harvested by illegal means. We’re the largest importer of seafood in the United States. We think somewhere north of 20, 25 percent of our seafood that comes into U.S. markets is harvested illegally. We regulate our U.S. fishermen, so if other nations aren’t regulating their distant-water fleets or fishing fleets, there’s a competitive disadvantage to the United States.
When I look across kind of the linkage to the Oceania region, there’s many small, widely distanced, coastal Pacific Island nations here with a finite amount of capacity. So when a distant-water fleet comes in, operates in the exclusive economic zone of a Pacific Island nation, for example, off the African continent, East and West Coasts, some of the fishing rights are traded in smoky backroom bars with very little transparency; many of the local constituencies don’t understand their trading rights being away; the fish that are captured in those areas are not landed. We look at the port state measures control that talks about how you land the fish, account for that; a lot of this fish is processed at sea and transshipped great distances, sometimes thousands of miles back, to fuel the economies of some of the worst IUU fishing violators.
So there’s a lot of aspects of it that are deleterious to the environment. Some bottom-dredging fishing has destroyed areas close to China, and they sent their bigger – built bigger ships, sent them further away. It really – when you’re poaching in a small coastal island’s waters, you deprive that coastal state of its own natural resources. The economic benefit, as I said, does not land there; it goes elsewhere.
So for us, the Coast Guard, we see IUU fishing as really a global threat. Fish is an essential protein source for about 40 percent of the global population. And if you look across all of the fish stocks, about 93 percent are really showing signs of depletion. They’re over-fished. So this is a burgeoning problem set, and it’s something that I think the international community – and that’s pulling together likeminded maritime forces, as I mentioned, the NGOs, academia. I think this is something we all have to take to heart. It’s ecological. It’s food sustainment. It’s really national security. And let me kind of stop on that note there.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Operator, if we could go next to line 41, Quoc Dat Duong with Zing News in Vietnam.
Question: Hi. Can you hear me?
Admiral Schultz: Yes, I can hear you.
Question: Yeah. Thank you for doing this. So I wanted to ask two questions. The first is, recently the U.S. Coast Guard donated a vessel, CSV-8021, to Vietnam. What does this mean for Vietnam and U.S. relations? The second question is, how do you assess the importance of this ship to Vietnam’s coast guard in conducting their missions in the South China Sea? Will we see more donations like this to Vietnam in the future? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah. Thank you for the question. And yes, so I am aware. The – it’s a former 378-foot high endurance cutter that we donated to Vietnam. As a matter of fact, we just sent a second sister ship here to Vietnam recently. So there’s now two high endurance cutters the Vietnamese will be operating. What I see there is Vietnam’s an important regional partner. We have a mid-grade Coast Guard officer, what we call a lieutenant commander – that’s the equivalent of a major in the Marine Corps or the Army – that is working there as a liaison. The Vietnamese are eager and are building out the capabilities and the capacity of their Coast Guard. So I’d like to think we have a very much reinforcing role to that capacity-building.
Those capital ships, while we ran them for many years here in the United States, the good part of a half a century, there’s some life left in those ships. And I think the Vietnamese – I’ve met with Vietnamese leadership here in my tenure as commandant, and they are committed to crewing those ships, putting those ships matched against their national security interests, their regional interests. And I think there’s a good story there.
So I believe Vietnam will remain a key regional ASEAN partner for the Coast Guard, for the United States Government, and I’m eager to see how they put those former Coast Guard cutters into the fight to thwart the threats in the region and really be champions for that rule-based order or maritime governance model I spoke about in some of the earlier questions.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Operator, next if we could go to line 49, Marian Faa with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Question: Hello and thanks, Admiral. The United States and the Federated States of Micronesia have agreed on a plan to build a military base in the Federated States of Micronesia. How important is this base to the maritime security in the region?
Admiral Schultz: Well, I know the president of the Federated States of Micronesia; I just spent a little time with him today, and I know he had some recent meetings here with our U.S. Department of Defense interests in Hawaii, including the Indo-Pacific commander. I followed some of the open-source press reporting about the things he talked about. I have not spoken to my United States military counterparts on that, but I would say that – so I won’t get into the specific commitments. I will get into the importance of the region.
The Federated States of Micronesia is a critically important region. Those fast response cutters I talked about in my opening remarks, you will see a lot of their operations being in that FSM region in Oceania. So I believe there is a strong commitment there. I’m going to hold off commenting because I’m not sure of the specificity of the commitment about basing and those type of things. But I did see some open, public-source reporting in the last day or two that sort of points in that direction.
But some of my comments today to the assembled audience at the ship commissionings, including the president, was that we are committed and we have put these additional capabilities beyond the three fast response cutters that replaced two less capable ships, with many more operating hours on these new ships. We’re putting C-130J airplanes in Barbers Point, Hawaii, replacing some older-model C-130H aircraft. So the Js have longer endurance, they have more sensor capabilities onboard. You used to have to stop in Wake or somewhere else, Wake Islands or other places, to fuel to get out here to the sea and to my region. Now they can fly direct. And there are going to be, I think like the FRCs, a game-changing capability here. We just – I talked about redesignating the sector. We have a new Federated States of Micronesia liaison here, really for the COFA region writ large, but we put a lieutenant, a new position just reported here. I met the young lieutenant today, but his job is to work with our State Department interests in the region, and I just met the ambassador here from FSM today.
So the region is important, which plays to the second part of your question, and we are committed to that importance with increased Coast Guard capability and capacity, both.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Operator, next we could go to line 43, Gerry Partido with the Pacific News Center in Guam.
Question: Yes, thank you, Admiral. Can you hear me?
Admiral Schultz: I can hear you loud and clear, sir. Thank you.
Question: Yes, sir. Sir, those new advanced cutters that you spoke of, are they capable of going to the South China Sea and going into freedom of navigation maneuvers? And a second – my second question is: Have you noticed an increase in Chinese navy operations in Pacific waters, specifically Micronesia waters? And has the Coast Guard been responding to those?
Admiral Schultz: So let me sort of take the latter part of your question. Those – the three fast response cutters, two have been in the region operating for some time already. Today was the formal commissioning. The third, the Frederick Hatch, just arrived here in recent days and weeks. But short answer is they will operate here in Oceania; they’ll operate as Guam as their home base. They have 8- to 10,000 mile expeditionary reach, but they need to be able to refuel and things. They can be teamed with other Coast Guard platforms here.
The first part of your question, about would that 154-foot coastal patrol boat be doing freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, East China Sea? No, that’s not their purpose. They’ll be operating regionally here in Oceania. They’ll be embarking shipriders from the 11 partner nations we have shiprider and then law enforcement agreements on. They’ll be doing IUUF, unregulated fisheries. There’s an example of one of the cutters here went out and did some patrols; they actually did a couple boardings under the auspices of the Western Central Pacific Regional Management Organization framework. They also observed 22 international fishing operations in the region. They shared that information back to the host nations so they could operate and take action on that.
But those fast response cutters with long legs will be working predominantly in FSM, so out in the COFA region, and we’ll push them down range but I do not believe – if we do some additional work in the East China Sea, South China Sea, that’s likely to be accomplished in the near term by our national security cutters. Those are our flagships, higher in performance. We’re also building offshore patrol cutters in the Coast Guard, which will be a very capable 360-foot ship. We won’t take delivery of the first ship there for a couple of years yet. But I anticipate you’d see some offshore patrol cutters in the not-so-distant future out here in the Indo-Pacific region as well. They could potentially find themselves in the South China or East China Seas. But that’s not the anticipated utilization of the fast response cutter.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Operator, if we could go to line 21 next, Elvis Chang from NTDAPTV in Taiwan.
Question: Yes. Admiral, thank you. What is your observation and concerns recently on China’s, the CCP’s maritime militia, especially operation in the South China Sea and the East China Sea? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Hey, Aaron, I had a little difficulty understanding that question. Did you possibly get that?
Moderator: Operator, could we ask for a repeat of the question?
Question: Okay. Okay. Just your observation and concerns recently on the China CCP’s maritime militia reports, especially their operation in the South China Sea and the East China Sea?
Admiral Schultz: Okay, I think I got it. So I think the question was about China’s maritime militia and how they utilize that in the East and South China Seas. So I would say this. What my observations are as the Coast Guard Commandant is I think we’ve seen examples where the People’s – the CCP government, the Chinese Government, PRC Government has used their China Coast Guard, which up until 2018 was a civilian-led organization; in 2018 they shifted ownership under the People’s Armed Police element, which is a direct report to the CCC, Chinese Communist Commission. I think we’ve seen China use their Coast Guard as the actioning arm, and I think we’ve also seen, by extension of that, using the maritime militias as an actioning arm. The maritime militia allegedly are fishermen, but they’re in many cases on vessels that I believe would appear to be vessels of the state or purchased by the state, with water cannons. And we have seen examples, and I think it’s all been in public domain reporting press of militia vessels running down other regional fishermen in disputed spaces, and we’ve seen some of the same reporting on the China coast guard.
I think what I would say as the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, and I think amongst the world’s best-recognized coast guards for following a rules-based order for our behaviors across the globe, is that behavior does not seem consistent to me with how the world’s best coast guards should operate and how the world’s best coast guards should act.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Operator, next if we could go to line 19, Andreo Calonzo with the – with Bloomberg News, Manila.
Question: Good morning from Manila, Admiral. Just a follow-up on that question, the previous question. How big of a threat do you see the Chinese maritime militia in terms of, number one, the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea; secondly, on the ecology of the area in terms of marine resources and fish there? And then, secondly, are there moves with – to partner up with any of the claimant countries, like the Philippines, in terms of patrols in that area? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah, thanks for the multiple questions there. I would tell you, I think the questions about how disruptive or impactful the operations of the maritime militia are probably better for my regional DOD colleagues that operate in the space and sort of roll up and see the full regional site picture every day and study that maybe better than I do. We’re a finite amount of capacity added to the conversation, but I think critically important and really important, because we do the people-to-people relationships as we build capacity, as we train together, as we operate together.
But what I would tell you is the IUU aspect of your question, what I believe we in the United States do – and why I mentioned in an earlier answer about economically disadvantaging U.S. fishermen if we’re holding our ships to the standards, the international standards, the United States standards as a responsible flag state, we’d like to see other flag states, particularly of these nations with large distance-water fleets also exercising their responsibilities as a flag state. I think that’s part of the conversation.
Really, when you talk about the Philippines, the Philippines has a very capable coast guard. We have a coast guard officer at the commander paygrade working over there. It’s a DTRA-assigned individual, but works in Coast Guard uniform, helping to build out the capacity and the capabilities of the Philippine coast guard. They’ve grown from a few thousand not too many short years ago, marching north of 35,000 in their ranks – I think there are about 15,000 today. I know they – I visited the Philippines a couple years back. They have some Japanese-provided patrol boats. I see the Japanese are building a couple of 90-plus-meter – what looks to be more like offshore patrol vessels – for the Philippines.
So I eagerly look forward to the Philippine coast guard pressing on a little bit further than their littorals. They have three of those former high-endurance cutters I alluded to earlier in the question about Vietnam. Three of those ships went to the Philippine navy. I think the Philippine coast guard is a little bit smaller than the navy, but interoperates to some degree. So I think the Philippines is an important partner. I think the IUUF threat is regional. And really, to me, a key part of that is for responsible flag-state behaviors from all nations that push distant-water fleets to far-off shores. And if they’re operating wrongly in another state’s EEZs, the flag state should take ownership of that and there should be accountability.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Operator, next if we could go to line 38, Dzirhan Mahadzir from USNI News in Malaysia.
Question: Hi. Thank you, Admiral, for your time. Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans to launch a South Pacific coast guard network. I know it’s early days, but could we have some of your comments on that and the possibility of U.S. Coast Guard collaboration with it?
And secondly, you mentioned about Coast Guard air assets. Do you see them being rotationally or forward deployed further than from Hawaii in the future? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah, let me start, sir, with the latter part. So our air footprint in the Indo-Pacific, in Hawaii – and we have those current C-130H aircraft, older airframes that are being replaced by the Js, the C-130J – the first is there, and that will extend our reach. We do forward deploy them here to Guam and other parts, usually for focused fisheries, IUUF patrols; sometimes it’s for a multiday SAR case. When you think about the vastness of the region, and really, many of the operators, the watermen that plow it, sometimes we’re looking for a couple of fishermen on a small outrig or skiff or a smaller fishing boat.
So we currently forward deploy those assets for specific IUUF fishing operations or for search and rescue cases. I don’t foresee deployment beyond this region here for other type of reach into the Indo-Pacific region – South China Sea, East China Sea. I don’t see that as in our wheelhouse of interest.
There was a second part of your question. I might have lost track of that, sir. Just give me the – if I didn’t answer a piece, just give me that second part of your question again. Oh, the French. Apologies, the French.
So yeah, I tracked a little bit of the French talking about some coast guard relationship-building, partner capacity-building. I think for us, like I said, we are working – and you are calling from Malaysia. So we work with MMA, the Malaysian Maritime Authority. We work with the Indonesian Bakamla. Any of the regional ASEAN partners that express an interest in working with the United States Coast Guard. I talked earlier about Vietnam. The Sri Lankans have a former medium endurance cutter and they’re accepting a former high endurance cutter. The Bangladeshis have a former high endurance cutter.
So we are absolutely openminded and forward-leaning to partner with regional partners. You mentioned the French here. The Australian maritime security program. The Kiwis operating their new ANZAC-class vessel. We are wide open to the opportunities to partner throughout the region. A lot of conversation here in the United States about the strategic Quad, so you’re looking at the United States, you’re looking at Japan, Australia, and India. I think there may be some burgeoning opportunities with the Indian coast guard. They have a very formidable, capable coast guard. So yeah, we are wide open to seeing what President Macron and the French naval forces, maritime forces are thinking about in the region, and potentially there’s some opportunity for overlap on the Venn diagram here with the French, I think, too.
Moderator: Thank you, Admiral. Operator, if we could go to line 26, Hideki Yui from NHK in Tokyo, Japan.
Question: Admiral, thanks so much for your time. My question is about the – your cooperation with the Japanese counterparts. What kind of joint operations or joint missions do you have with Japanese counterparts in the East China Sea and the South China Sea? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah. So I would say, sir, Japan is one of our key regional allies and partners. We have a very robust working relationship with Japan coast guard. Currently, kind of pivoting away from the East/South China Sea conversation; we have one of our national security cutters, the Cutter Bertholf, that is en route to the North Pacific. And up in the North Pacific we have a – what we call the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum, and that is comprised of the United States, it’s Japan, it’s China, interestingly, it’s Russia, it’s the South Koreans, the Republic of Korea, and it’s the Canadians. It’s six partner nations that work together, generally in support of thwarting illicit fishing activities.
If you sort of look back over the 25 history – 25-year history of that group, essentially working collaboratively – so that could be a national security cutter. Like I said, this year Japanese providing aviation capabilities. We had a shiprider memorandum agreement with the Chinese over the years. We’re at the table renegotiating that MOU today. Russian capabilities there. The Canadians sometimes put surface or air assets in the mix. The operation under the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum – it’s really North Pacific guard. And that’s a great example. So in that quarter century, essentially we have eradicated high-seas drift-net fishing. So that’s the long nets that roll up fish but also roll up other – all kind of marine life and fish life.
So there are successes of what happens when we work together. Japan is a key partner there. This year I believe we’re doing something we haven’t done in a while, potentially doing some training with Japan, possible to involve a gunnery exercise and other things. So we’re constantly looking to thicken the lines of collaboration with our Japanese coast guard counterparts. The Kojima, Japanese training ship, frequently makes port calls in San Francisco and Hawaii, and we generally get together with the crews and some social activities, some training activities.
So I mentioned in the last question the strategic Quad, and again, that’s Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India. I think there’s just robust opportunities to thicken the lines of collaboration and partnership with Japan coast guard. And again, it’s strong today. I think it’s going to get stronger and more critically important from a regional perspective in the future.
Moderator: Thanks, Admiral. Operator, if we could go to line 51, please, Raissa Robles, who is the Manila correspondent for the South China Morning Post.
Question: Good morning, Admiral. One of my questions has already been answered by you. My second question is: Is there any ongoing negotiation or do we actually have every shiprider agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: And that question was related to a People’s Republic of China-U.S. Coast Guard shiprider agreement? Was that the question, ma’am?
Question: No. I want to know if the Philippines and the U.S. Coast Guard have any ongoing negotiations to have a shiprider agreement? And since you mentioned, you do have a shiprider agreement with China?
Admiral Schultz: So let me start in reverse order. So we had a memorandum of agreement, MOU, with China that expired, and we are at the table; we’ve been at the table for some time. I think it’s been about over a year now. But we are renegotiating that memorandum of agreement with China. We do not have a shiprider agreement with the Philippines, but we have a very collaborative, cooperative relationship with the Philippines. I mentioned earlier having been to the Philippines. The Philippines very much look to the United States Coast Guard as a partner, as a role model as they build out their force structure, as they grow the coast guard, like I said, from 5,000 within the last decade to 15-, 14, 15,000 today with a vision for upwards of 35,000 in the good part of the next decade. And we’ve been helpful to have them think through the mission support required for operating platforms. I talked about the vessels that they’re getting from Japan already, patrol craft, getting larger OPVs. We’re helping the Philippine coast guard envision how they’ll best operate those.
So there’s a strong partnership there. But in terms of an agreement, a shiprider agreement, from my recollection I do not believe we have that in place. But we make port calls there, we do professional exchanges, we do key leader exchanges. I have had in my job the one visit to the Philippines. It probably would have been more than that had it not been for the COVID environment. But I’ve had Zoom calls with my Philippine coast guard counterparts. At least a couple of those in the last year and a half. So we have a very productive, open line of dialogue with the Philippine coast guard, who I would say are strong regional partners.
Moderator: Thanks, Admiral. Operator, next if we could go to line 46, Ryo Nakamura with Nikkei Asia. Thank you.
Question: Thank you, Admiral. Can you hear me?
Admiral Schultz: Yes, sir, I can hear you.
Question: Okay, thank you. The United States and Taiwan agreed to establish a coast guard working group back in March. So could you tell us the progress you have made with Taiwan counterparts since then? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah. So thank you for that question. So back in late March, we did establish a working group for a memorandum of understanding with the Taiwan coast guard. And I think what that MOU does, it affirms our common interest in areas such as the environment and protection of natural resources. It speaks to our shared interest in reducing IUU fishing as a scourge that affects all maritime nation-states. I think it also reflects our commitment to environmental response for oil spills and those type of things, response to natural disasters.
So the MOU is still very nascent. We’re having meetings with the right Taiwanese interests and the United States interests about what next steps are there. But I think there’s been quite a bit of media reporting, and I think what the MOU really does is it affirms our common interests. And we have many MOUs and shiprider agreements with – we have those types of agreements with 60 countries across the globe. And generally, those are to find those common places where we share common interests. So I think the Taiwan MOU is, again, environmental focused, it is search and rescue focused, it is thwarting IUU, illicit fishing and reducing harms to the environment focused. I think those are things that, I think, it would be difficult to find objectionable, to be honest.
Moderator: Thank you. We have a couple more questions. One I’m going to read. It came through our Asia-Pacific Media Hub in Manila. It’s from Lucy Craymer, national correspondent for Stuff, which is a New Zealand website. The question is: “Has any decision been made on basing a new security cutter in American Samoa? And if not, what sort of timeline is there for such a decision to be made?”
Admiral Schultz: Yeah, thank you, Lucy, for that question. So we have had some interest, some expressed interest in the former administration about could we put a fast response cutter in American Samoa. These fast response cutters – and again, being here on the ground at Apra Harbor today, I am going to go later this afternoon and look at the facility we’re building, what we call the assistance – maintenance assistance facility for these cutters. These are complex ships. Only 24 crewmembers. They require a fairly capable landside support element to that. What we have found both domestically in the United States and forward in Hawaii, forward here in Apra Harbor, is we try not to support these ships in a single-ship model. There’s efficiencies in multi – putting multiple light platforms in one location. Arguably it’s about 18 maintainers to support one fast response cutter. If you collocate two, you can probably support those two with maybe 24 supporters. If you did three, maybe 27, 30 supporters can support three ships. So that’s our operating model.
Right now I envision the three boats in Guam will be reaching out to Samoa and you’ll see more Coast Guard cutter presence in and around American Samoa, but I have no immediate plans for home porting a fast response cutter in American Samoa.
Moderator: Thank you for that question. And this is our last question, line 53, Hang Duy Linh from Tuoi Tre, Vietnam.
Question: Yes, I’m speaking. Thank you for joining with us, Admiral. My question is very short. There are some reports saying that the U.S. Coast Guard is considering Arctic FONOPs. So what do you think about the U.S. Coast Guard FONOPs in the South China Sea to ensure freedom [inaudible]? Thank you.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah, thank you for the question. And I’m going to – I’m not sure where you jumped in, so I’ll kind of reach back to a previous answer. So we have done some freedom of navigation operations, FONOPs in the region – Taiwan Straits FONOP previously in – I think back in ’19. As – I as service chief, through my regional commanders I have a Pacific regional commander based in California that’s the waters west of the Rockies, across the Western Pacific here until you get over to the land mass in Asia, and I have an Atlantic forces commander. Generally, they’re the force providers. When we send a ship to the Pacific fleet – this is to the U.S. Naval Pacific Fleet working for the U.S. Indo-Pacific commander – we send a ship; that crew is trained and is available for use as they see best fit to advance the interests of United States integrated naval power.
So I do not think it’s a far stretch to say future Coast Guard cutters, likely national security cutters, could be involved in freedom of navigation operations. But that’s a – I’m a supporting commander to the Indo-Pacific, PACOM, Pacific Fleet commander, in terms of providing resources. How they employ those resources is their choice. But if you’re asking me do I anticipate future freedom of navigation operations involving Coast Guard cutters, I think that’s very possible.
Moderator: Thank you so much, Admiral Schultz. If you’d like, you have an opportunity for closing remarks.
Admiral Schultz: Yeah, I would say this, Aaron. Just appreciate the wide-ranging questions. Again, I’m honored to be here out in the Oceania region, here in Guam, located in the CNMI, and Guam is a key partner for all U.S. military forces, a key place where we operate and train. The Coast Guard is excited to bring these new capabilities. We’re excited as we’ve redesignated our sector Guam to Coast Guard Forces Micronesia to reflect our increased commitment and capabilities in the region. We’re excited to bring these longer-range C-130s with enhanced sensors to the area. I just think it’s a proud moment for us to take our 150-plus-year history in the region and really amplify it. We are committed.
The U.S. ambassador here from the Federated States of Micronesia was at today’s ceremony as was the president of the Federated States of Micronesia, and we had some great conversation, and truly a like-mindedness about how important the Coast Guard’s contributions to this region are – (a) to protect U.S. interests, (b) to enhance the capabilities and capacity-building of the Pacific Island countries’ maritime forces, and really, to further dive down and look to thwart this IUUF, illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing threat. Because I think that’s something that really poses a threat to the natural resources of these smaller Pacific Island nations, really poses a threat to their economic prosperity. And as we build out situational awareness of that through enhanced maritime domain awareness, as we built out likeminded stakeholders that bring some capacity to the conversation, bring their voice to the conversation, we bring in academia and other government agencies, I think there’s a lot of good that the United States Coast Guard can bring to the region on top of what we’ve been doing historically for a century and a half-plus.
Moderator: Thank you. That concludes today’s call. I would like to thank Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant for the U.S. Coast Guard, for joining us, and thanks to all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the East Asia Pacific Media Hub at EAPMediaHub@state.gov. Thank you and have a great day, everyone.