As a U.S. Coast Guard cutter sailed through the East China Sea last month, Chinese vessels shadowed it on the high seas, service officials said. It was a reminder to the Americans of where they were: in a strategic area a couple hundred miles from China’s shores. The situation underscored the evolving U.S. response to the rise of China and the Coast Guard’s role operating missions typically closer to home. The Coast Guard is increasingly orienting itself toward China, senior officials said, by deploying new cutters, repositioning older ones and dispatching service members to countries such as Vietnam and Sri Lanka to help train those nations’ coast guards.
Adm. Karl Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant, said that as the Defense Department shifts its focus to competing with Russia and China, the Navy is “oversubscribed.” The factors he cited include “realities in the South China Sea” and the loss of two Navy destroyers involved in deadly collisions in 2017.