U.S. ups port-se­cu­rity ex­changes with China

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Richard Hal­lo­ran

HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard is qui­etly ex­pand­ing ex­changes with Chi­nese mar­itimese­cu­rity agen­cies in a move that re­flects the boom in seaborne trade be­tween the two coun­tries.

Chi­nese law-en­force­ment of­fi­cers ride Coast Guard cut­ters pa­trolling North Pa­cific fish­ing ar­eas. Chi­nese and Amer­i­can of­fi­cers scru­ti­nize port se­cu­rity on each other’s coasts. Chi­nese take part in joint train­ing drills.

Chi­nese, along with Cana­di­ans, Ja­panese, South Kore­ans, Rus­sians and Amer­i­cans, at­tend an an­nual North Pa­cific Coast Guard Fo­rum in Alaska.

And the Coast Guard has posted a Chi­nese-speak­ing of­fi­cer, Capt. Bar­ney More­land, to the U.S. Em­bassy in Bei­jing to li­aise with Chi­nese of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing those deal­ing with port se­cu­rity.

Coast Guard of­fi­cials think the co­op­er­a­tion is jus­ti­fied by grow­ing trade links in spite of of­ten un­easy po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions be­tween the United States and China. Most of the $207 bil­lion worth of Chi­nese ex­ports to the United States in the first nine months of 2006 moved by ship.

“We put pol­i­tics aside to fo­cus on the mis­sion,” said Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, who com­mands Coast Guard ships and sailors from Hawaii west to the shores of Asia.

The ex­changes also are part of a broader U.S. ef­fort to re­build mil­i­tary ex­changes with China, which lapsed af­ter Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties crushed a pro-democ­racy move­ment at Tianan­men Square in 1989 and a Chi­nese fighter plane col­lided with a U.S. re­con­nais­sance plane off Hainan Is­land in 2001.

Sec­re­tary of De­fense Robert M. Gates in­di­cated to the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee ahead of his con­fir­ma­tion that he would con­tinue those ex­changes. “I be­lieve that ex­panded mil­i­tary ex- changes with China can be valu­able, but should be based on China’s will­ing­ness to re­cip­ro­cate.”

The rea­sons for the ex­changes are sev­eral. At the worka­day level, the two sides ex­change in­for­ma­tion on “best prac­tices,” on how well things are done, said Adm. BriceO’Hara.

Strate­gi­cally, the Pa­cific Com­mand seeks to re­as­sure the Chi­nese, who are sus­pi­cious of for­eign pow­ers, that the United States is not plan­ning to at­tack. Con­versely, the United States seeks to de­ter the Chi­nese from mis­cal­cu­lat­ing and plan­ning a war with the United States.

Down at deck level, the Coast Guard Cut­ter Rush called at the Chi­nese port of Qing­dao re­cently to pick up an of­fi­cial of the Fish­eries Law En­force­ment Com­mis­sion, Tan Lizhou.

He came aboard to work with the crew as they checked on whether fish­ing boats in the North Pa­cific were op­er­at­ing in ac­cord with in­ter­na­tional agree­ments in­tended to con­serve dwin­dling stocks of fish there.

“We made him part of the crew,” said Capt. Dana Ware, then the skip­per of the ship. He as­signed Mr. Tan the rank of lieu­tenant com­man­der, which made him rel­a­tively se­nior among the ship’s 20 of­fi­cers.

Mr. Tan mus­tered to quar­ters, ate with the of­fi­cers in the ward­room where he didn’t much care for Amer­i­can food, and had com­puter con­nec­tions with his home base in China.

Mr. Tan’s main duty, how­ever, was to com­mu­ni­cate by ra­dio with Chi­nese fish­ing ves­sels that Capt. Ware thought should be in­spected, then to go with the board­ing party to ver­ify the ves­sel’s reg­is­tra­tion, equip­ment records and catch log.

“We let him do most of the talk­ing,” Capt. Ware said, not­ing that Mr. Tan’s English got bet­ter as time passed so that he could ex­plain more to his Amer­i­can hosts.

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