China, US Coast Guard team up for sea exercise in Hawaii
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
HONOLULU — A Chinese Maritime Safety Administration ship made a historic first visit to Honolulu and the United States Tuesday to improve civilian maritime cooperation as disputes continue to roil relations in the South China Sea.
The 370-foot Haixun 31 was escorted into Honolulu Harbor by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Galveston Island and the Honolulu Fire Department fireboat Moku Ahi, which arced jets of water into the air.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Safety Administration — which is separate from the China Coast Guard — will conduct a joint search and rescue exercise. The ship is expected to leave Hawaii Saturday.
U.S. Coast Guard engagements with its counterparts in China have grown rapidly since 2006, expanding "on every front with bilateral and multilateral efforts in port security, search and rescue, fisheries law enforcement and other areas," according to "China, the United States and 21st Century Sea Power," co-written by U.S. Naval War College and Chinese authors.
"No. 1, (the visit) is, yes, an attempt to show the flag to remind the world that they (China) are players, and No. 2, it's an attempt to get some training and to travel long distances," said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies in Honolulu.
Glosserman added that such cooperation builds trust, providing "insight into how people operate so you do actually understand why they are doing the things that they do."
"So there's nothing necessarily nefarious about this at all and I think there's all sorts of very good reasons to be promoting this kind of cooperation," he said.
Chinese warships have visited Hawaii at least four times since the People's Liberation Army Navy first pulled into port here in 1989.
The Hawaii exercises come as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Beijing and pressed China to peacefully resolve differences with neighboring countries in the South China Sea, the Associated Press reported.
"China, like other countries in the world, has the obligation to safeguard its territories," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, according to AP.
The Haixun 31, China's largest maritime inspection vessel, sailed past the disputed Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes in the South China Sea before docking in Singapore in June.
Lt. Gene Maestas, a spokesman for the Coast Guard's 14th District here, said the service and China counterparts "have met on several different occasions to discuss maritime search and rescue and maritime pollution response."
The Coast Guard said it is the only U.S. agency with the infrastructure and authority to project a law enforcement presence throughout 3.36 million square miles of U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones.
In July, the Honolulu-based Coast Guard cutter Rush boarded the fishing vessel Da Cheng 850 miles east of Tokyo in the North Pacific, which it said had used illegal drift nets and caught 30 metric tons of albacore tuna and six metric tons of shark bodies and fins.
Last month, the Coast Guard transferred the Da Cheng, with a Chinese crew, to the China Fishery Law Enforcement Command.
The U.S. and China in May affirmed support of the establishment of a U.S.-China Maritime Safety Dialogue involving the Coast Guard and China Maritime Safety Administration and to hold the first talks this fall in China.