U.S. Coast Guard officials are monitoring a Russian ship seen in waters near the Hawaiian Islands they believe is being used to gather intelligence, the agency said this week.
In a news release issued on Wednesday, the Coast Guard noted that international laws allow foreign military vessels to travel freely through the U.S. economic exclusive zone, which designates portions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans where the U.S. and other coastal nations have control over natural resources, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But "foreign-flagged military vessels," conceivably, like the Russian ship under surveillance near Hawaii, "have often been observed operating and loitering" in that particular area, according to the Coast Guard.
It belongs to the agency's 14th district, whose jurisdiction includes the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands as well as most of the central and western Pacific.
"The District Commander oversees 25 operational units ashore and afloat throughout the Pacific, which regularly perform missions in maritime safety, protection of natural resources, maritime security, homeland security, and national defense," reads a description of District Fourteen on the Coast Guard's government website.
District Fourteen is the bureau's "largest area of responsibility," covering more than 14 million square miles of land and sea, according to the Coast Guard. It includes units on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, and in American Samoa, Saipan, Guam, Singapore and Japan, and employs close to 1,800 troops in active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary roles, the site description states.
The Coast Guard said on Wednesday that it is coordinating with partners at the U.S. Department of Defense to track and provide updates on foreign vessel movements and related activities in District Fourteen, "and to appropriately meet presence with presence to encourage international maritime norms." The agency released a short clip with surveillance footage that shows the Russian ship moving through waters off the Hawaiian coast.
"The U.S. Coast Guard is currently monitoring the Russian vessel operating in the vicinity of Hawaii," said Cmdr. Dave Milne, chief of external affairs at the agency, in a statement.
"As part of our daily operations, we track all vessels in the Pacific area through surface and air assets and joint agency capabilities," the statement continued. "The Coast Guard operates in accordance with international laws of the sea to ensure all nations can do the same without fear or contest. This is especially critical to secure freedom of movement and navigation throughout the Blue Pacific."
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