U.S. collaborates with China on Pacific maritime network
HONOLULU — The United States and five other countries, including China and Russia, are quietly developing a maritime network to battle drugs, human trafficking and poaching fishermen.
One exercise involves the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Boutwell, which recently sailed from Honolulu to Shanghai to pick up a Chinese law-enforcement officer. It will then sail on to the northwestern Pacific to look for vessels engaged in illegal fishing.
During the patrol, the ship is scheduled to call at Yokosuka, Japan, and Petropavlovsk, Russia.
Boutwell’s voyage reflects what a Coast Guard officer called “a de- veloping network for maritime security” that includes the U.S., Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
Without much fanfare, coast guards and other law-enforcement agencies have been working together.
Besides having ship riders on U.S. cutters, Chinese patrol boats have exercised with U.S. cutters and helicopters, while Russian and Japanese coast guards have coordinated operations against North Pacific driftnetters who violate international agreements.
A Japanese coast guard officer said they had captured a vessel smuggling drugs because a Chinese crew had radioed ahead a description of the vessel that had outrun them.
Several weeks ago, officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, China’s Border Control Depar tment, Japan’s Coast Guard and South Korea’s Coast Guard gathered at the Nor th Pacific Coast Guard Forum in Honolulu to discuss “best practices.”
The Russians didn’t come but are to host an upcoming highlevel meeting in St. Petersburg.
High on the agenda were differences in legal systems, which the officers agreed were perhaps the biggest obstacle to working together, because each nation gives different authority to its officers.
China’s legal system tends to be draconian. Japan’s is layered with German and then U.S. concepts. Korea’s legal system, imposed by Japan’s occupation of 1910-1945, is infused with ancient Confucianism.
On the other hand, an exchange of ideas on how to find hidden compartments went easily.
“We know how to measure rather precisely,” said a U.S. officer. “We can make sure they can’t put drugs in a secret place.”
Much was the same in swapping ideas on counterdrug operations, on training and certifying people to board ships suspected of wrongdoing, and on when the use of force was permissible.
A computerized U.S. information system to track vessels on the high seas drew considerable interest from the Asian participants.
Even so, the coast guards, all on tight budgets, have far to go and maritime relations among the six nations can sometimes be tense.
Japanese militar y analyst Kazuhisa Ogawa was quoted in a Tokyo newspaper as saying: “Japan, as a seafaring nation, does not have an adequate maritime monitoring system.”
Somehow, a ship from Vancouver, Canada, managed to slip into the port of Osaka, Japan, with 640 kilograms of illicit drugs hidden in a shipment of lumber.
Customs officials, suspecting something amiss, X-rayed the lumber to find a record cache. They arrested four Chinese, who contended they only came to pick up the lumber.