You thought the US Coast Guard was about guarding the US coast? Well, not exactly. It is also about keeping the “Indo-Pacific” (read: the strait between Taiwan and mainland China) “free and open”:
The U.S. Coast Guard sent one of its biggest and most advanced vessels through the Taiwan Strait on March 25, 2019, drawing protest from China and hinting that the Coast Guard might take on a more forceful military role in the disputed waters of the Western Pacific.
The cutter USCGC Bertholf transited the 110-mile-wide strait in the company of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur, The Japan Times reported.
The two ships “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit … in accordance with international law,” U.S. Navy spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley told the newspaper. “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
Normal countries have a Coast Guard to police their coast. The Empire has a Coast Guard to “police” the coasts of other countries.
Bertholf is the lead vessel in a new class of large cutter. 418 feet long and displacing 4,600 tons of water, Bertholf roughly is the size of a frigate. Her armament includes a 57-millimeter cannon, a 20-millimeter Phalanx self-defense gun and machine guns.
She also carries an MH-65 helicopter and at least one Scan Eagle drone. The Coast Guard operates six cutters like Bertholf. Another five are in testing or under construction.
Lyle Morris, an analyst for the California think tank RAND, told The Japan Times that Bertholf‘s Taiwan Strait transit was “a bold move.”
“For one, it signals a new level of interoperability between the [U.S. Navy] and [Coast Guard],” Morris said. “It signals a willingness to send a cutter for sensitive national security missions. It doesn’t get much more sensitive than the Taiwan Strait.”
China has never contested or tried to interfere with anyone’s peaceful passage through the Strait. Sending your Navy vessels to its coast to keep the seas “free and open” is provocative and an insult, sending your Coast Guard force is doubly so.