Coastguards are key to defending Taiwan against China
As China increases the strength of its forces and the frequency of its naval exercises, it is increasingly evident that Taiwan’s sovereignty could be threatened. A Chinese incursion or major attack can take the form of an embargo, blockade, airborne assault, cyber warfare, or amphibious attack – or, more likely, in concert. Taiwan faces the daunting challenge of defending itself against everyone.
While the United States Department of Defense (DOD) would play the most important role in the response, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) – the fifth largest military service, located within the Department of Homeland Security – can make an invaluable contribution to deterrence or defense. Often underestimated and underfunded, the USCG is poised to be one of the most effective instruments to safeguard Taiwanese security. It can strengthen deterrence and provide overt support while avoiding a precipitous escalation by China that could stem from an open DOD presence.
In addition, the Coast Guard‘s multidimensional mandate, in both civilian and military space, enables the service to compete in an increasingly complex global security environment, at the crossroads of kinetic and non-kinetic wars, where the physical and digital worlds continue to converge. . Beijing’s preferred tactics are to intimidate commercial and government vessels, extract resources from the waters of other countries, conduct cyber espionage operations, and expand its territorial claims, all with the calculated intention of undermine global standards without triggering a meaningful international response.
These are tactics the Coast Guard is well positioned to address. He could help Taipei in the following ways:
First, it could train Taiwanese forces in maritime surveillance and interdiction missions. These measures are particularly important, as the precursor to an invasion would likely be the deployment of Chinese fishing vessels in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions for an invading fleet, as well as deception tactics to mask the moment. , the extent and location of an invasion. fleet.
Second, the Coast Guard’s statutory missions in defense, commerce, and law enforcement enable the United States to deploy versatile and highly visible security assets that protect American ships, both military and commercial; support the strengthening of the security capacities of allies; and verify China’s naval ambitions, which include the fishing flight and development of artificial islands to expand its regional land claims.
Third, important as these measures are, such cooperation should be broadened based on the unique skills and capabilities of the USCG. By working bilaterally or with regional allies beyond current missions in Southeast Asia, the Coast Guard and Taiwan could significantly expand exercises focused on maritime navigation, search and rescue, countermeasures. narcotics and contraband.
The regional role of the Coast Guard has gradually expanded. In 2019, for the first time, a cutter sailed through the Taiwan Strait accompanied by a Navy destroyer. That same year, the USCG deployed two cutters to train with its counterparts in the Western Pacific for more than 10 months. The newly developed high-speed service national security cutters, many of which are based in Guam, dramatically reduce response times to malicious activity.
The Coast Guard has not only advanced these missions in the South China Sea and other waters around Taiwan, but also other theaters of growing interest in China. In the Arctic, China continues its icebreaking trips to expand its global security and economic footprint across a vast region with minimal oversight. The USCG also continues to detect and deter economic exploitation practices off the coast of South America. For example, Operation Southern Cross, a months-long deployment of a cutter, has quietly carried out significant operations to counter the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing campaigns allowed by China, in close cooperation with its Brazilian, Argentinian, Guyanese and Uruguayan counterparts.
The Coast Guard has also a proven track record of sensitive deployments in geopolitically controversial regions. His Southwest Asia Patrol Forces (PATFORSWA), strategically based in Bahrain near the Strait of Hormuz, has been invaluable in strengthening relations with our partners in the Persian Gulf, notably Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and in building maritime control capabilities against Iran.
The deployment in Bahrain offers a model of success. The United States has gradually increased its dependence on the USCG in its broader effort to counter China. However, to fulfill this expanded mandate and operational tempo, the Biden administration must provide the resources and attention that this formidable force and mission deserves. This is not just limited to ships, but dedicates the training, technology and political support necessary to fully realize the role of the Coast Guard in the 21st century.
The actions the USCG can take, based on its global experience and keen sense of dangerous environments, will increase Taiwan’s security by strengthening its deterrence and defense against attack. The Coast Guard offers a unique tool to advance the protection of Taiwan and other US interests in an increasingly volatile region.
Adam Stahl is a national security professional who has worked for the Senate Trade and Foreign Relations Committees and the Department of Homeland Security. A former Deputy Chief of Staff in the Strategy, Policy and Planning Office of DHS, he led the department’s strategy development for China and the Arctic. He now works for an energy company.
Bradley A. Thayer is co-author of “How China sees the world: Han centrism and the balance of power in international politics. “