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US national security adviser reveals plans to expand Coast Guard presence in Pacific

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam may get two new cutters, according to Robert C. O’Brien, national security adviser to the president.

A third cutter, with a possibility of more, is being planned for American Samoa.

“This capability will allow us to expand opportunities to partner with like-minded nations in the region,” O’Brien told reporters during a Saturday morning briefing.

He reached out to American Samoa and Guam last week.

“The national security adviser paid me a courtesy call in light of Guam’s pivotal role in the security of the nation and the Indo-Pacific region,” said Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. “Central to that discussion is growing concern about China’s economic and military influence in this part of the world. We also appreciate the possibility of an expanded Coast Guard presence, protecting trade, fishing grounds, and commerce in our part of the world.”

This is the latest overture from high-ranking officials in the Trump administration. The secretaries of State and the Navy also have met with Leon Guerrero and other regional leaders. The message has been focused on China’s expanding influence and growing aggression in the Pacific.

China has been investing heavily in the communities and economies of the islands in the Pacific for years.

When asked about the United States’ effort to counter China's growing influence, O’Brien said countering their moves is an effort that should have started years ago but didn’t because of the drastic budget cuts to the Coast Guard, Navy and other military branches.

"We went through a period of defense sequestration where the prior administration where there just wasn’t enough money to build the type of Coast Guard and Navy that we need,” he said. “We just didn’t have the capability that we should have had.

"It was a very different view of the world that we had," O'Brien said of the Obama administration's foreign policy. "It was an idea of leading from behind. Strategic patience and turning the other cheek as China engaged in malign activity.”

He said a tenet of President Trump’s foreign policy is “to find peace through strength.”

“We believe...a strong America is an America that deters war,” he stated.

“We still have a very robust U.S. Navy that will outclass any Navy, including (China’s) People’s Liberation Army Navy, in the region or in the world. We’ve done a lot on Guam to build up Guam and I think we’re going to be moving out to some of the other islands as well.”

The fast-response cutters, which carry 24 Coast Guard personnel, will take about two to three years to build.

“We’re getting those things underway and hopefully they’ll be there in time to make a difference and increase the safety of Americans living in the region and our friends who are likeminded,” O’Brien stated.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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