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US to increase Pacific military presence as China signs Solomons pact

There could be more United States coast guard activity in the Pacific in the coming months, says the Commanding Officer of the USCGC Munro, Captain Blake Novak in Suva.

Fresh from conducting raids in the Fijian waters under Operation Blue Pacific, the US ship is berthed in Suva, Fiji.

This has been seen by many as the United States’ attempt to have more presence in the region over growing concerns about China’s increasing role in the Pacific.

fiji suva US
Capt. Blake Novak (right), commanding officer aboard Cutter Munro, welcomes aboard Joewesh Taituraga, border control officer with the Fijian Immigration Department. Munro’s crew worked with their Fijian partners April 18-19, 2022, off the coast of Fiji, to board fishing vessels and counter potentially illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Picture: supplied

On Tuesday, a security deal between China and Solomon Islands was agreed upon.

For the past week, the USCGC Munro was in Fiji waters with five Fijian government agency officials. They boarded ships and checked if maritime laws were being adhered to. This is part of the United States Operation Blue Pacific.

Capt. Novak said the deployment aims to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and strengthen relationships to enhance maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region.

pacific fiji us coastguard
A team of five Fijian law enforcement officers works with a team from U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro during a boarding of a China-flagged fishing vessel off the coast of Fiji. The boarding was part of Operation Blue Pacific, that aims to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and strengthen relationships to enhance maritime sovereignty and security throughout the Indo-Pacific. Picture: supplied

When asked if there would be more US Coast Guard presence in the Pacific, Captain Novak said he believed so.

“I think the Coast Guard is committed to our Pacific island nations and maritime governance,” he said.

Capt. Novak said the operation led to boarding of ships in Fiji waters and illegal activity was detected.

pacific fiji us
Amelia Radrodro, a fisheries enforcement officer with the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, speaks to the master of a China-flagged fishing vessel with the help of an interpreter from U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro, during a boarding off the Coast of Fiji. Picture: supplied

He said the laws were enforced by the Fijian agencies on board the USCGC Munro.

“The opportunity to share best practices on how to conduct enforcement activities safely when you act in high risk environments,” he said.

“The Munro supported officials of the Ministry of Fisheries, Fiji Revenue and Customs Services, the Fijian Immigration Department and the Fiji Navy and conducted multiple boarding to enforce Fijian laws and regulations in Fijian waters.

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“These are important skills to reinforce maritime governance and a have free Indo-Pacific Ocean.”

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