Coast Guard ship headed for historic China visit
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
By William Cole
On the heels of a much-publicized trip to China by the head of U.S. Pacific Command, the Honolulu-based Coast Guard cutter Rush is making a historic visit to the country.
The 378-foot ship and its crew of 188 are heading to Shanghai in the first visit to China by a major Coast Guard vessel since World War II. The three-month deployment will include visits to South Korea and Japan.
It is seen as another way to engage China as the U.S. seeks greater "transparency" from the growing power, and a full restoration of contact between militaries to reduce misunderstanding and the chance of war.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Leaf, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said at a business and military gathering in Honolulu on Wednesday that the Coast Guard "has a special connection with nations by being somewhere between the full Department of Defense military and the civilian arm of our government."
The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
"They can do things that no other part of United States official apparatus can do," Leaf said.
The U.S. and China broke off military contact in 2001 after a U.S. Navy spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet collided over the South China Sea. China held the crew for 11 days.
The cutter Rush will participate with other coast guards in at-sea exercises organized by the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.
Coast guards from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and Canada comprise the forum, which fosters cooperation to combat drug trafficking and illegal immigration, and to enforce marine security and fisheries rules.
Capt. Dana Ware, commanding officer of the Rush, said he is excited that his ship will represent the United States.
"Team Rush looks forward to what will certainly be a challenging and professionally rewarding deployment in support of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum," he said in a statement.
A release said the Rush would visit Shanghai "to solidify the working relationship between the United States and China in counter-drug law enforcement operations."
District 14 Coast Guard officials in Honolulu referred questions about the mission to Pacific area headquarters in California, which could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Adm. William Fallon, the Hawai'i-based commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, recently wrapped up a trip to China and was expected to leave for Washington, D.C.
During a week-long tour of Chinese military installations and visits with senior officers, Fallon, a veteran aircraft carrier fighter pilot, got to sit in the cockpit of an FB-7 fighter-bomber, China's most advanced domestically produced warplane.
He invited China to watch the "Valiant Shield" U.S. military exercise in June that will be held near Guam. Three aircraft carriers are expected to take part in exercises that month in the biggest carrier operation in the Pacific since the Vietnam War.
Since taking over Pacific Command in February 2005, Fallon has attempted to rebuild U.S. and China military cooperation.
"In Adm. Fallon's two visits to China he has stressed his desire to expand military-to-military contact," said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the command.
"Since November 2005, we have conducted three officer exchanges, two (People's Liberation Army) delegations have visited the U.S., and one U.S. delegation has visited China," he said.
Salata said the intent of such military contacts is to "foster transparency, seek opportunities to build mutual understanding and thereby reduce the potential for miscalculation."
The USS Blue Ridge, an amphibious command ship, visited Shanghai in February 2003, and the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur made a port call to the eastern city of Qingdao in September.The Washington Post contributed to this story.
Reach William Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.